Professor Leigh Ann Simmons, chair of the Department of Human Ecology, has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Health Behavior (AAHB). Fellow status is a special membership category in recognition of significant contributions to the field of health behavior research and demonstrated involvement in the organization.
“AAHB is home to the leading professionals in the field of health behavior research,” Simmons said. “As a scientist committed to research for social justice, I am grateful for the acknowledgement of my work and for the opportunity to leverage this honor in continued service of our most vulnerable people living in the U.S.”
Simmons’ research promotes health equity in the battle against common chronic diseases such as obesity, depression, cancer and heart disease. Health equity means access to the social determinants of health. Her work focuses on particularly vulnerable groups—pregnant women, minority populations and the economically disadvantaged in rural areas.
At UC Davis, Simmons is the director of the Health Equity Across the Lifespan (HEAL) Lab and serves as co-director of the Perinatal Origins of Disparities Center. She has authored more than 70 journal publications and has presented extensively in three core areas of scholarship:
- Characterizing chronic disease risk factors for populations experiencing disparities
- Understanding the impact of early life exposures (prenatal, family and community environments) on chronic disease later in life
- Developing and testing remote delivery models (text, mobile applications) of personalized behavioral change interventions to reduce chronic disease risk
Much of Simmons’ research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She is an active member of AABH, having served on the board of directors as research development council chair and serving twice as the annual scientific meeting program chair/co-chair.
Simmons earned her Ph.D. in child and family therapy from the University of Georgia. From 2005 to 2010 she served as a health disparities scholar through the NIH Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She also has extensive policy experience, having served as a congressional fellow on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.