Donna Spruijt-Metz


Associate Professor Preventive Medicine, Director Responsible Conduct of Research

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Keck School of Medicine

Research Topics

  • Childhood obesity
  • Health disparities
  • physical activity and diet
  • Mobile Health (mHealth)

Research Overview

Dr. Donna Spruijt-Metz’ research focuses on pediatric obesity, and is particularly concerned with understanding how psychosocial, metabolic built environmental and social environmental forces interact to influence behavior and health. She has studied child feeding practices and the impact that these have on childhood obesity. She holds four master's degrees; two in music, one in creative writing, and one in psychological research methods. She received her PhD in Adolescent Medicine and Medical Ethics from the Vrije Universitiet Amsterdam. She is Associate Professor University of Southern California’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Director, Responsible Conduct in Research for the Keck School of Medicine. Current studies include a longitudinal study of the impact of puberty on insulin dynamics, mood and physical activity in minority girls (funded by NCI), a study examining the impact of simple carbohydrate versus complex carbohydrate meals on behavior, insulin dynamics, select gut peptides, and psychosocial measures in overweight minority youth (funded by NCHMD), and the KNOWME Networks project, developing Wireless Body Area Networks specifically for minority youth for non-intrusive monitoring of metabolic health, vital signs such as heart rate, and physical activity and other obesity-related behaviors, and real-time interventions to treat and prevent obesity (funded by NCHMD). KNOWME Networks has won several prizes and received national attention. She has used media-based interventions to reduce sedentary behavior in middle school minority females, and recently completed the Wellness Partners project with Gotsis (PI, funded by RWJ), developing and testing a mobile, socially networked game to promote physical activity in adults and families. She, along with colleagues from Cinema, Education, Creative Technologies and Engineering, was recently funded by NIH/NCCR (SEPA award) to create Virtual Sprouts, which will be a multi-platform virtual gardening game for the prevention of obesity in minority youth. She is also involved in studies using mobile technologies such as ecological momentary assessment to understand obesity-related behavior in youth. She has a deep interest in harnessing mobile health and new media modalities to bring researchers and researched systems into interaction, to engage people in their own data, and to bring about lasting change in obesity through changes in societal norms, built and perceived environments, and behavior. In line with her background in medical ethics, she is also interested in the ethical implications of new mHealth and telehealth technologies. Her most recent publications are available on her website