Barry M. Popkin, PhD, is the W. R. Kenan, Jr. distinguished professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). He has a PhD in agricultural economics and established the Division of Nutrition Epidemiology at UNC and later established and ran the UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Center, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He has developed the concept of the Nutrition Transition, the study of the dynamic shifts in dietary intake and physical activity patterns and trends and obesity and other nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases. His research program focuses globally on understanding the shifts in stages of the transition and programs and policies to improve the population health linked with this transition (see www.nutrans.org). His research is primarily funded by the NIH. In the U.S., Popkin’ s work involves long-term research focused mainly on dietary and food purchasing behavior, the underlying determinants of patterns and trends in these behaviors and their linkages to obesity and other noncommunicable diseases. This includes an array of research focused on retailer behavior. He leads the Global Food Research Program of UNC(GFRPUNC), which has developed a method to monitor changes the entire factory to fork food system and is using this to evaluate global food company activities as well as those of retailers and their impact on our diets. In the US the GFRPUNC focuses on race-ethnic disparities, other behavior monitoring the packaged purchased food industry and various smaller efforts such as joint evaluation with a partner of the impact of the Berkeley sugar-sweetened beverage tax (SSB). Also in the US he is working with several groups that focus on food retailer interventions. He Chairs an International Scientific Committee for Choices International Foundation that focuses on promoting in countries across the globe and with both caterers and retailers in many countries on Front-of-the-Package (FOP) profiling. He is working with a number of global retailers in this role.
Popkin’s GFRPUNC is equally large-scale. This includes directing longitudinal surveys in China and Russia and other survey work across all regions of the low and middle income world. He is actively involved at the national and global level in policy formulation for many countries, particularly Mexico, South East Asia, and China. He has played a central role in placing the concerns of global obesity, its determinants, and consequences on the global stage and is now actively involved in work on the program and policy design and evaluation side at the national level, including collaborative SSB/junk food tax evaluation research in Mexico(with the National Institute of Public Health) in evaluating the impact of the Mexican SSB and nonessential food taxes and similar work with the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Chile in evaluating an SSB tax and marketing/FOP controls. Again these studies and evaluations include research on specific retailer behavior. He has received a number of major awards for his global contributions, including: Gopalan Award, India; UK Rank Science Prize; U.S. Kellogg Prize for Outstanding International Nutrition Research; and The Obesity Society Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award. He has published over 480 refereed journal articles, is one of the most cited nutrition scholars in the world, and is the author of a new book entitled The World is Fat (January 2009, Avery-Penguin Publishers), translated into 11 languages.