PHRESH: Pittsburgh Hill/Homewood Research on Eating, Shopping, and Health

Tamara Dubowitz introduces the PHRESH project and discusses what it could tell us about food purchasing in neighborhoods like Homewood and the Hill District.

Pittsburgh Hill/Homewood Research on Eating, Shopping & Health (PHRESH) is a five-year study of the Hill District and Homewood communities. PHRESH will explore food choices, food availability, health and well-being, and other issues important to these communities.

We know that the things people eat affect their health. We also know that food choices depend on what people like, how much it costs, convenience, and other factors. But, we are not sure how characteristics of neighborhoods—things like access to fresh fruits, vegetables and meats—make neighborhoods and residents more or less healthy.

PHRESH is the largest study ever in the United States to try to answer these questions. It will provide valuable information on issues that are important to the Homewood and Hill District residents and community.

To do this, PHRESH will look at what the Hill and Homewood are like now, and whether changes occur over time in these areas:

  • availability of healthy food choices in the neighborhood
  • types of food stores in the neighborhood
  • healthy foods within food stores
  • cost of healthy and unhealthy food options
  • transportation and neighborhood safety
  • neighborhood green spaces and walking places
  • resident food shopping behaviors
  • resident opinions about healthy eating, and aspects of the neighborhood, such as transportation and safety
  • resident health and well-being.

How Will PHRESH Look at Community Opinions and Residents' Health?

PHRESH is inviting people who live in Homewood and the Hill District to participate in an interview about these critical issues. If you participated in PHRESH in 2011, or in PHRESH Plus in 2013, you will be asked to complete the second round of PHRESH interviews this summer. We begin our second round of PHRESH interviews in May 2014. Keep an eye out, because we may be contacting you.

  • Households invited to participate will be randomly chosen.
  • A PHRESH interviewer will come to your door to ask you to participate.
  • You can talk with the interviewer at your home or meet later in a public place.

PHRESH participants will receive $40 in gift cards for completing two in-person interviews. The first interview will take about 90 minutes. A second interview, conducted one to two weeks later, will take about 30 minutes.

How Will PHRESH Look at Food Choices in the Neighborhood?

As part of the PHRESH project, we are visiting every place that sells food—such as restaurants and convenience stores—in Homewood and the Hill District to observe the types, quality, and prices of food they sell. It is very important we collect this information so that we can understand what foods are available in the neighborhood.

If you are the owner or manager of a place that sells food in the Hill District or Homewood, you will receive a letter inviting you to participate in PHRESH. We are asking that you allow trained PHRESH data collectors to enter your store or restaurant to observe and record food types, quality, and pricing. Data collectors will not ask any questions of you or your staff. PHRESH is not evaluating you, your staff, or your store or restaurant—we want to know about all the foods available in the neighborhood, not about your particular store or restaurant. We will not share the information we collect with anyone outside of the project team.

The observation will take about 30 minutes, and may take less time.

Who Can I Ask for More Information?

The PHRESH Field Office is located at the Hill House Association, 1 Hope Square, Room 304, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. The PHRESH field coordinator, La'Vette Wagner, and a team of data collectors are based here. These staff members can be reached at 412.738.0494 or email

What Good Can PHRESH Do?

We are working together with residents and PHRESH community partners to get a better understanding of the Hill District and Homewood neighborhoods. PHRESH findings may be useful for bringing resources to neighborhoods locally and across the country. In addition to the issues of food availability and health changes, PHRESH findings may provide useful information to our community partners. They are interested in other issues that are important to the well-being of community residents.