Deborah A. Cohen

Photo of Deborah Cohen
Senior Natural Scientist
Santa Monica Office

Education

M.D., School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania; M.P.H. in epidemiology, UCLA School of Public Health; B.A. in filmmaking, Yale University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Overview

Deborah Cohen is a senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation. She is the author of A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Influences Behind the Obesity Epidemic—and How We Can End It. Her areas of interest include how structural environmental factors—social and physical—influence health. She has studied how neighborhood parks influence physical activity and how community characteristics affect health disparities and health. She is working on interventions to promote healthier diets and more physical activity at the population level. Cohen has directed numerous projects on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV screening and prevention, and alcohol policy. She has served on technical and advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Cohen received her M.D. from the School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.

Recent Projects

  • The role of parks in physical activity
  • Cost-effectiveness of HIV prevention

Selected Publications

D.A. Cohen, "Eating as an Automatic Behavior, Preventing Chronic Disease," http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2008/jan/07_0046.htm, 5(1), 2008

D. A. Cohen et al., "Neurophysiological Pathways to Obesity: Below Awareness and Beyond Individual Control," Diabetes, 57(1768):1773, 2008

D. A. Cohen et al., "Collective Efficacy and Obesity: The Potential Influence of Social Factors on Health," Social Science and Medicine, 62, 2006

D. A. Cohen et al., "Public Parks and Physical Activity Among Adolescent Girls," Pediatrics, 118(5), 2006

D. A. Cohen et al., "Cost-Effective Allocation of Government Funds to Prevent HIV Infection," Health Affairs, 24(4), 2005

T. Farley and D. A. Cohen, Prescription for a Healthy Nation: A New Approach to Improving Our Lives by Fixing Our Everyday World, Beacon Press, 2005

D. A. Cohen et al., "How Do Public Parks Contribute to Physical Activity?" American Journal of Public Health

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Chicago Sun-Times; Health & Medicine Week; HealthDay.com; Los Angeles Times; National Journal; New York Times; NPR; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Scripps Howard News Service; The Times-Picayune, New Orleans; United Press International; Washington Post; WebMD Medical News

Commentary: Bloomberg View; Los Angeles Times; New England Journal of Medicine; Newsday; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Politico; The Health Care Blog; United Press International; USA Today; Washington Post

Commentary

  • A woman reading a menu at a restaurant

    Calorie Labels Won't Fix America's Problem with Away-From-Home Food

    The FDA's new guidelines for calorie labeling on restaurant menus, retail establishments like convenience stores and movie theaters, and vending machines are a long-due recognition that eating away from home can be hazardous to health. But the new mandate falls far short of providing the necessary fix.

    Dec 10, 2014 | The Hill

  • College students in a cafeteria line

    To Fight Obesity, Make UC a Laboratory

    With its Global Food Initiative, the University of California is seeking ways to help the billion people who go to bed hungry each night. At the same time, UC could also be addressing obesity. Experimenting with changes to the food environment and documenting their impact on diet and weight gain would accelerate progress on this national problem not just for students, but for all Americans.

    Oct 30, 2014 | The Orange County Register

  • Food court signs in Las Vegas

    Always Hungry? Here's the Real Reason Why

    The problem of obesity cannot be attributed to a single dietary or physiological factor, like too much sugar, too much fat, or even factors like viruses, bacteria, and endocrine disrupters. The real problem is that Americans now live in a food swamp and there is just too much food easily available.

    Aug 15, 2014 | FOX News Channel Online

  • Benjamin Lesczynski, 8, of New York, takes a sip of a "Big Gulp" while protesting the proposed "soda ban" suggested by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, July 9, 2012

    Let's Regulate Food Like We Do Alcohol

    To help people avoid overeating, the kinds of policies effective in controlling alcohol consumption should be applied to food — standardizing portion sizes, limiting impulse marketing and reducing the convenience and salience of foods most closely associated with obesity and chronic diseases.

    May 19, 2014 | New York Daily News

  • family dining on a restaurant patio

    Restaurant Standards Could Curb Fat America

    Given the high prevalence of obesity and chronic diseases and their enormous societal burden, every restaurant, including fast food outlets, should offer healthier meal options and discourage over-consumption.

    Mar 26, 2014 | USA Today

  • a large BLT sandwich in a restaurant

    Obesity Epidemic: Standardized Portion Sizes in Restaurants Could Help Solve Public Health Crisis

    Ideally, restaurant food should be tailored and sold the way clothing is, so people can get the exact amount that is appropriate for their bodies. Such sizing options should be required in all dining establishments to give people the option of consuming meals that fit.

    Mar 21, 2014 | San Jose Mercury News

  • U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama exercises with children at Orr Elementary School in Washington

    Michelle Obama Shouldn't Be the Only One Fighting Obesity

    To identify the policies that will make a big fat dent in obesity rates, we first need an accurate diagnosis: Americans are overweight and obese because they are inundated with too much food. The use of impulse marketing strategies has skyrocketed, with invitations to indulge at every turn.

    Jan 17, 2014 | Politico

  • woman looking into a bakery window, store, people, food, caucasian, shop, sweet, woman, cake, market, happy, pastry, purchase, sale, supermarket, grocery, shelf, retail, person, commerce, choice, buy, biscuit, cookies, commercial, female, bakery, baker, work, product, wood, city, street, urban, shopper, yummy, snack, sugar, varied, offer, homemade, patisserie, fresh, goods, production, torte, service, healthy, nutrition, meal, customer

    The Conspiracy to Keep You Fat

    Just as we needed policies to protect people from having alcohol thrust in their faces everywhere they went, we need to develop and implement policies that protect people from food cues and triggers designed to make them eat when they're not hungry and over-consume.

    Jan 6, 2014 | Los Angeles Times

  • Women sit on a bench in New York's Times Square

    Five Myths About Obesity

    The obesity epidemic is among the most critical health issues facing the United States. Although it has generated a lot of attention and calls for solutions, it also has served up a super-sized portion of myths and misunderstandings.

    Dec 27, 2013 | The Washington Post

  • Santa Claus in a grocery store announcing shopping deals

    'Tis the Season to Be Wary

    During the holiday season, a time when overindulgence is a tradition for many, food marketing creates especially serious challenges for people trying to limit their intake and make careful decisions about healthier eating.

    Dec 23, 2013 | The RAND Blog

  • Nutrition facts on a microwave popcorn box

    The FDA Ban on Trans Fat Should Be Just the Beginning

    Most people lack the information they need to judge or track the quantity and quality of the nutrients they consume. The FDA should take a disease prevention approach — as it is currently doing with trans fat — in promoting standards that address how all foods are prepared and served away from home.

    Nov 26, 2013 | The Health Care Blog

  • man putting ketchup on a hot dog at a snack bar

    The Skinny on the Freshman 15

    Colleges should acknowledge their responsibility not to put their students at risk for weight gain, obesity and the host of chronic diseases related to poor diets, writes Deborah Cohen. Students have to make their own food choices, but it's colleges who're setting the table.

    Aug 21, 2013 | USA Today

  • a glass of cola with ice cubes

    Ruling Can Lead to Tougher New York Soda Ban

    New York should see the judge's ruling as an opportunity to revise the law to close the loopholes, including the Big Gulp exemption, and develop regulations in line with the scientific consensus that even 16 ounces is way too much, writes Deborah Cohen.

    Mar 13, 2013 | Bloomberg View

  • woman at grocery store checkout

    Candy at the Cash Register—A Risk Factor for Obesity and Chronic Disease

    Although placement is a factor that is right in front of our noses, we should consider treating it as a hidden risk factor, like carcinogens in water, because placement influences our food choices in a way that is largely automatic and out of our conscious control, write Deborah A. Cohen and Susan H. Babey.

    Oct 11, 2012 | New England Journal of Medicine

  • people eating at a Mexican-American restaurant

    New York City Is Right to Treat Soda Like 'Demon Rum'

    It is time we treated food with the same respect we hold for the power of alcohol. It's time to develop and implement regulations that will help us moderate our diets and stem the obesity epidemic, write Deborah Cohen and Lila Rabinovich.

    Sep 14, 2012 | Newsday

  • Bloomberg Right That Portion Control Works

    Regulations requiring the restaurant industry to serve standardized portion sizes should be mandated and enforced by the same authorities responsible for checking hygienic conditions in food outlets, writes Deborah Cohen.

    Jun 11, 2012 | USA Today

Publications