Dr. Rebecca E. Lee serves as founding director of the Texas Obesity Research Center and is a full professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston and holds a courtesy appointment at the University of Texas School of Public Health.
Dr. Rebecca Lee oversees the Understanding Neighborhood Determinants of Obesity (UNDO) research team. Dr. Lee aims to provide an innovative, theoretically-derived, trans-cultural, and community-based approach to improving health to the science and community alike. Dr. Lee, a community health psychologist, specializes in community based health research. Her studies focus on populations of color using innovative strategies, such as incorporating social cohesion, ameliorating social injustices, improving the quality of the neighborhood environment via policy and grass-roots strategies. Her work has focused primarily on women and children, and she is principal investigator for several federally and privately funded research grants including Health Is Power (HIP) and the Multinational Collaboration to Increase Physical Activity in Hispanics, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NIH); the Science & Community community based participatory research projects: Ending Obesity, Improving Health and Sustainability via Active Garden Education (SAGE), funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NIH); the award winning, SAving Lives, Staying Active (SALSA) study; the International Health Challenge in Second Life, funded by the USC Annenberg School for Communication; and the Healthful Options Using Streets and Transportation in Our Neighborhoods (HOUSTON) project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Dr. Rebecca Lee's work is driven by her desire to reduce health disparities. The focus of her work has investigated the role of the social and environmental context of physical activity and dietary habits and obesity in minority populations. In addition to her programs and initiatives at the University of Houston, Dr. Lee is the former chair and member of the Mayor's Wellness Council Public Policy Committee, where she actively worked with the Council to improve the health of Houstonians. She is an editorial board member of the International Journal of Women's Health, the American Journal of Health Promotion and Health Psychology. She has authored and co-authored numerous studies in peer-reviewed publications, and has written one book, Reversing the Obesogenic Environment (Human Kinetics, 2011). She served as a charter member for five years on the Community Level Health Promotion Study Section for the Center for Scientific Review at the National Institutes of Health, and has received many honors and awards, including the University of Houston College of Education Research Excellence Award in 2005 and 2008, the award for Outstanding Achievement from the Texas Council on Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Stroke, the University of Houston Commission on Women 2013 Distinguished Faculty Scholar, and she is a Fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. In 2011 and 2012, she was selected as a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Core Scholar to conduct research investigating environmental determinants of obesity in Mexican children in Mexico.
In her spare time, Dr. Lee enjoys traveling, dancing, singing, swimming, wine-tasting and spending time running after her nieces and nephews and God-children.
Recent Publications and Research Activity
O'Connor TM, Cerin E, Robles J, Lee RE, Kerr J, Butte N, Mendoza JA, Thompson D, Baranowski T. Feasibility Study to Objectively Assess Activity and Location of Hispanic Preschoolers: A Short Communication. Geospatial Health 2013. In press.
Adamus-Leach HJ, Wilson PL, O’Connor DP, Rhode PC, Mama SK, Lee RE. Depression, stress and body fat are associated with binge eating in a community sample of African American and Hispanic women. Eating and Weight Disorders; 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s40519-013-0021-3; In press.
Suminski RR, Connolly EK, May LE, Wasserman J, Olvera N, Lee RE. Park Quality in Racial/Ethnic Minority Neighborhoods. Environmental Justice. 2012; In press.
Adamus-Leach HJ, Mama SK, O’Connor DP, Lee RE. Income differences in perceived neighborhood environment characteristics among African American women. Environmental Health Insights. 2012;6:33-40.
Lee RE, Mama SK, Leach HJ. Neighborhood street scale elements, sedentary time and cardiometabolic risk factors in inactive ethnic minority women. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51081.
Lee RE, Adamus-Leach HJ, Cheung KC, Soltero EG, Lopez Y III, Saavedra F, Noor M, Mama SK. Researching Those Who Have the Most to Gain: Focused Physical Activity Promotion in Lower Socioeconomic Populations. Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports. 2012; 6(4):355-61.
Adamus HJ, Mama SK, Sahnoune I, Lee RE. Evaluating the quality and accessibility of physical activity resources in two southern cities. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2012 Sep;27(1):52-4.
Ledoux T, Mama S, O’Connor DP, Adamus H, Fraser ML, Lee RE. Home Availability and the Impact of Weekly Stressful Events Are Associated with Fruit and Vegetable Intake among African American and Hispanic/Latina Women. Journal of Obesity, 2012: 737891.
Lee RE, Mama SK, Lopez Y III. Sitting time and cardiometabolic risk factors in African American women. Journal of Obesity, 2012: 803467.
Wilson PL, O’Connor DP, Kaplan CD, Bode S, Lee RE. Relationship between fruit, vegetable, and fat consumption and binge eating symptoms in African American and Hispanic or Latina women. Eating Behaviors. 2012;13(2):179-82.
McAlexander KM, Mama SK, Medina AV, O'Connor DP, Lee RE. Concordance and correlates of direct and indirect built environment measurement among minority women. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2012;26(4):239-44.
Smith-Ray R, Mama S, Reese-Smith J, Estabrooks P, Lee RE. Improving participation rates for women of color in health research: The role of group cohesion, Prevention Science. 2012;13(1):27-35.
Heinrich KM, Choy L, Reese-Smith JY, Regan GR, Ahluwahlia JS, Lee RE. Store and restaurant advertising and health of public housing residents. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2012;36(1):66-74.
Lee RE, Mama SK, Medina AV, Ho A, Adamus HJ. Neighborhood factors influence physical activity among community dwelling African American and Hispanic or Latina women. Health & Place. 2012 18: 63-70.
Lee RE, O'Connor DP, Smith-Ray R, Mama SK, Medina AV, Reese-Smith JY, Banda JA, Layne CS, Brosnan M, Cubbin C, McMillan T, Estabrooks PA. Mediating effects of group cohesion on physical activity and diet in women of color: Health Is Power. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2012;26(4):e116–e125.
Lopez III Y, O'Connor DP, Ledoux TA, Lee RE. Analysis of body composition methods in a community sample of African American women. Women & Health, 2011; 51(8), 709-23.
Lee RE, Mama SK, Medina AV, Reese-Smith JY, Banda JA, Layne CS, Baxter M, O'Connor DP, McNeill L, Estabrooks PA. Multiple measures of physical activity, dietary habits and weight status in African American and Hispanic or Latina Women. Journal of Community Health. 2011 36(6):1011-23.
Lee RE, Medina AV, Mama SK, Reese-Smith JY, O’Connor DP, Brosnan M, Cubbin C, McMillan T, Estabrooks PA. Health is Power: An ecological theory-based health intervention for women of color. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2011;32(6):916-23.
Mama SK, Quill BE, Fernandez-Esquer ME, Reese-Smith JY, Banda JA, Lee RE. Body image and physical activity among African American and Hispanic or Latina women. Ethnicity & Disease. 2011;21(3):281-287.
McAlexander KM, Mama SK, Medina A, O'Connor DP, Lee RE. The concordance of directly and indirectly measured built environment attributes and physical activity adoption. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011;8(1):72.
Suminski R, Ding D, Lee R, May L, Tota T, Dinius D. Youth physical activity opportunities in lower and higher income neighborhoods. Journal of Urban Health. 2011;88(4):599-615.
Siddiqi S, Mama SK, Lee RE. Developing an obesity prevention intervention in networked virtual environments: The International Health Challenge in Second Life. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 2011; 3(3):3-26.
McAlexander KM, Alastuey L, Bode S, Lee RE. Using virtual and real, immersive technologies to enhance learning in Obesity Studies. Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation, 2011; 4(4):455-60.
Eugeni ML, Baxter M, Mama SK, Lee RE. Disconnections of African American public housing residents: Connections to physical activity, dietary habits and obesity. American Journal of Community Psychology. 2011;47(3-4):264-76.
Layne CS, Mama SK, Banda JA, Lee RE. Development of an ecologically valid approach to assess moderate physical activity using accelerometery in community dwelling women of color: A cross-sectional study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011;8(1):21.
Lee RE, Mama SK, Medina AV, Edwards RO, McNeill LH. SAving Lives Staying Active: SALSA to promote physical activity and healthy eating. Journal of Obesity. 2011;2011:436509.
Estabrooks PA, Glasgow RE, Xu S, Dzewaltowski DA, Lee RE, Thomas D, Almeida FA, Thayer AN, Smith-Ray RL. Building a multiple modality, theory-based physical activity intervention: The development of CardiACTION. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 2011;12(1):46-53.
Lee RE, Mama SK, McAlexander K, Adamus H, Medina A. Neighborhood factors and physical activity in African American public housing residents. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2011;8(Suppl 1):S83-90.
Lee RE, Heinrich KM, Medina AV, Maddock JE, Regan GR, Reese-Smith JY, Jokura Y. A picture of the healthful food environment in two diverse urban cities. Environmental Health Insights. 2010;4:49-60.
McMillan T, Cubbin C, Parmenter B, Medina A., Lee RE. Neighborhood sampling: How many streets must an auditor walk? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2010;7:20.
Lee RE, Mama SK, Banda JA, Bryant LG, McAlexander KP. Physical activity opportunities in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2009;63:1021.
McAlexander KM, Banda JA, McAlexander JW, Lee RE. Physical activity resource attributes and obesity in low-income African Americans. Journal of Urban Health. 2009;86(5):696-707.
Furia A, Lee RE, Stother ML, Huang TK. College students’ motivation to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2009;33(3):256-263.
Kueht ML, McFarlin BK, Lee RE. Severely obese have greater LPS-stimulated TNF-α production than normal weight African-American women. Obesity. 2009;17(3):447-451.
Lee RE, Cubbin C. Striding toward social justice: The ecologic milieu of physical activity. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. 2009;37(1):10-17.
Parmenter BM, McMillan T, Cubbin C, Lee RE. Developing geospatial data management, recruitment, and analysis techniques for physical activity research. Urban and Regional Information Systems Association Journal. 2008;20(2):13-19.
Heinrich KM, Lee RE, Regan GR, Reese-Smith J, Howard HH, Hou Q, Haddock CK, Poston WSC. How does the built environment relate to BMI and obesity prevalence among public housing residents? American Journal of Health Promotion. 2008;22:187-194.
Froehlich-Grobe K, Regan GR, Reese-Smith J, Booth-Heinrich KM, Lee RE. Physical access in urban public housing facilities. Disability and Health Journal. 2008;1:25-29.
Huang T TK , Delancey B, Shimel A, Lee RE, Stother ML, Metabolic risks among college students: Prevalence and gender differences, Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. 2007;5(4):365-372.
Lee RE, Greiner KA, Hall S, Born W, Kimminau K, Allison A, Ahluwalia JS. Ecological correlates of obesity in rural obese adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2007;26(5):424-433.
Heinrich KM, Lee RE, Suminski RR, Regan GR, Reese-Smith J, Howard HH, Haddock CK, Poston WSC. Ahluwalia JS. Associations between the built environment and physical activity in public housing residents. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2007;4(1):56.
Lee RE, Cubbin C, Winkleby M. Contribution of neighbourhood socioeconomic status and physical activity resources to physical activity among women. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2007;61(10):882-890.
Buckworth J, Lee RE, Schneider LK, Regan G, DiClemente CC. Decomposing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation for exercise. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 2007;8(4):441–461.
Carroll SL, Lee RE, Kaur H, Harris KJ, Strother ML, Huang TTK. Smoking, weight loss intention and obesity-promoting behaviors in college students. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2006;25:348–353.
Regan GR, Lee RE, Booth KM, Reese-Smith J. Obesogenic influences in public housing: A mixed method analysis. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2006;20:282-290.
Lee RE, Booth KM, Reese-Smith J, Regan GR, Howard HH. The Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) instrument: Evaluating features, amenities and incivilities of physical activity resources in urban neighborhoods. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2005;2:13.
Li C, Kaur H, Choi WS, Huang TT-K, Lee RE, Ahluwalia JS. Additive interactions of maternal prepregnancy body mass index and breastfeeding on childhood overweight risk. Obesity Research. 2005;13:362-371.
Lee RE, Harris KJ, Catley D, Shostrom V, Choi S, Okuyemi K, Kaur H, Ahluwalia JS. Factors associated with BMI, weight perceptions and trying to lose weight in African American smokers. Journal of the National Medical Association. 2005; 97:53-61.
Huang TT, Kempf AM, Strother ML, Li C, Lee RE, Harris KJ, Kaur H. Overweight and components of the metabolic syndrome in college students. Diabetes Care. 2004;27:3000-3001.
Pulvers KM, Lee RE, Kaur H, Mayo MS, Fitzgibbon ML, Jeffries SK, Butler J, Hou Q, Ahluwalia JS. Development of a Culturally-Relevant Body Image Instrument among Urban African Americans. Obesity Research. 2004;12(10):1641-1651.
Collins R, Lee RE, Albright CL, King AC. Ready to be Physically Active? The effects of a course preparing low income multiethnic women to be more physically active. Health Education & Behavior. 2004;31:47-64.
Anis NA, Lee RE, Ellerbeck EF, Nazir,N, Greiner, K.A., Ahluwalia, J.S. Direct observation of physician counseling on dietary habits and exercise: patient, physician, and office correlates. Preventive Medicine. 2004;38:198-202.
Huang TTK, Harris KJ, Lee RE, Nazir N, Born W, Kaur H. Assessing overweight, obesity, diet, and physical activity in college students. Journal of American College Health. 2003;52:83-86.
Resnicow K, McCarty F, Blisset D, Wang T, Heitzler C, Lee RE. Validity of a modified CHAMPS physical activity questionnaire among African Americans. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2003;35:1537-1545.
Lee RE & King AC. Discretionary time among older adults: How do physical activity promotion programs affect sedentary and active discretionary time behaviors? Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2003;25:112-119.
Spence J, & Lee RE. Toward a comprehensive model of physical activity. Psychology of Sports and Exercise. 2003;4:7-24.
Ribisl KM, & Lee RE, Henriksen L, Haladjian H. A content analysis of web sites promoting smoking culture and lifestyle. Health Education and Behavior. 2003;30:64-78.
Estabrooks PA, Lee RE, Gyurcsik NC. Resources for physical activity participation: Does availability and accessibility differ by neighborhood SES? Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2003;25:100-104.
Lee RE & Cubbin C. Neighborhood context and youth cardiovascular health behaviors. American Journal of Public Health. 2002;92(3):428-436.
Lee RE, Nigg C, Courneya K, & DiClemente CC. Validating motivational readiness for exercise behavior with adolescents. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 2001;72(4):401-410.
Lee RE, Feighery E, Schleicher N, & Halvorson S. The relationship between community bans of self-service tobacco displays and store environment and between tobacco accessibility and merchant incentives. American Journal of Public Health. 2001;91:2019-2021.
Lee RE, Goldberg J, Sallis JF, Castro CM, Hickmann SA, & Chen AH. A prospective analysis of the relationship between walking and mood in sedentary ethnic minority women. Women and Health. 2001;32(4):1-15.
Feighery EC, Ribisl KM, Schleicher N, Lee RE, & Halvorson S. Cigarette advertising and promotional strategies in retail outlets: results of a statewide survey in California. Tobacco Control. 2001;10:184-188.
Castro CM, Sallis JF, Hickmann SA, Lee RE, & Chen AH. A prospective study of psychosocial correlates of physical activity for ethnic minority women. Psychology & Health. 1999;14:277-293.
Hickmann SA, Lee RE, Sallis JF, Castro CM, & Chen AH. The association of physical activity change with self-esteem in minority women: A prospective analysis. Journal of Gender, Culture, and Health. 1999;4:281-292.
Chen AH, Sallis JF, Castro CM, Lee RE, & Hickmann SA. A home-based behavioral intervention to promote walking in sedentary ethnic minority women: Project WALK. Women's Health. 1998;4(1):19-39.
Lee RE, McGinnis KA, Sallis JF, Castro CM, Chen AH, & Hickmann SA. Active vs. passive methods of recruiting ethnic minority women to a health promotion program. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 1997;19:378-384.
Shaw WS, Cronan TE, Lee RE, & Kaplan RM. Health care satisfaction among osteoarthritis sufferers. Psychology & Health. 1996;11:395-409.
B.A. in Psychology at San Diego State University, 1992
M.A. in Psychology at San Diego State University, 1994
Ph.D. in Human Services Psychology, dual emphasis of Community Psychology and Behavioral Medicine at University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1998