Nisha Botchwey: Youth Advocacy to Promote Health through Policy, Systems, and Built Environment Change

Nisha Botchwey is an associate professor of city and regional planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology and an adjunct professor in Emory University's School of Public Health. An expert in health and the built environment as well as community engagement, she holds graduate degrees in both urban planning and public health. Botchwey codirects the National Physical Activity Research Center, both the Atlanta Neighborhood Quality of Life and Health Dashboard and the data dashboard for Health, Environment, and Livability for Fulton County, and directs the Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse.

Botchwey's research focuses on health and the built environment, health equity, community engagement, and data dashboards for evidence-based planning and practice. She is a coauthor of Health Impact Assessment in the United States (Springer, 2014), convener of a national expert panel on interdisciplinary workforce training between the public health and community design fields, and author of numerous articles, scientific presentations, and workshops. Botchwey has won distinctions including a National Science Foundation ADVANCE Woman of Excellence Faculty Award, a Hesburgh Award Teaching Fellowship from Georgia Tech and the Georgia Power Professor of Excellence Award, a Rockefeller-Penn Fellowship from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing, and was a Nominated Changemaker by the Obama White House's Council on Women and Girls. She has also served on the Advisory Committee to the Director for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, is a social sciences panel member for the Ford Foundation's Fellowship Program, and member of the Voices for Healthy Kids Strategic Advisory Committee for the American Heart Association.


The built environment is a major contributor to youth physical inactivity and the many chronic diseases plaguing our nation. There is particular concern regarding low levels of physical activity among middle- and high-school aged youth, as the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity is associated with poor child development and lower academic achievement. Rising childhood obesity also poses significant health-equity challenges that threaten the U.S. economy and national security. What is missing from the public debate and academic scholarship concerning these challenges is a robust discussion of interventions that use advocacy and empowerment theory as a principal mechanism for measuring and increasing youth physical activity. Youth advocacy for environment and policy change holds promise for improvements in obesity prevention and promotion of the whole child. This research highlights the particular importance of youth advocacy for measuring nutrition- and activity-based health outcomes. The presentation will briefly analyze the theories, instruments, and mechanisms used to advance this intervention. The presentation will also highlight results of exciting new studies on youth engagement, including new Robert Woods Johnson Foundation–sponsored research titled "Youth Engagement and Action for Health!" (YEAH!).

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