SPH’s Jamie Chriqui Earns University Scholar Award

University Scholar Interview

Jamie Chriqui headshot.

The University Scholars Program, now in its 34th year, honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievements. The award provides $15,000 a year for three years.  UIC Today profiled SPH’s Jamie Chriqui, professor of health policy and administration, as a 2019-20 University Scholar.

What are your research interests?

My research agenda aims to inform federal, state and local decisionmakers on public policy strategies for improving population health. For the past two decades, my focus has been on issues related to obesity, nutrition and physical activity and related chronic disease issues, with a heavy emphasis on school health and wellness issues. I led nationwide studies to examine the prevalence and change in state laws and school district policies related to school health, wellness, nutrition, physical activity, and related issues and their implementation and impact on districts, schools and students. Additionally, I have been examining the role that planning and zoning can play in influencing community “walkability” and how such policies influence the built environment and physical activity and sedentary behaviors. Finally, as a methodologist, I led policy surveillance and legal epidemiology projects for over two decades, whereby we compile and evaluate state and local laws and policies nationwide and link them to population health data to examine their implementation and impact on community and individual health-related outcomes.

How did you become interested in these topics?

My educational training is entirely in public policy/health policy. I spent 17 years working in Washington, D.C., prior to joining UIC; first working in the Federal Government as a public health advisor and policy analyst for the National Institute of Drug Abuse and then 12 years in Federal Government contracting supporting most agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services including the NIH and CDC. I was at the forefront of public health efforts to focus on obesity prevention and population health strategies for addressing the problem and where I began conducting policy surveillance studies.

What do you teach?

I teach a graduate-level course on health policy analysis that focuses on informing decisionmakers on strategies for addressing a public health problem from a public policy lens. I also direct Master’s of Public Health student capstone projects and advise on doctoral dissertations.

How do you balance teaching and research?

For me, balancing teaching and research is easy because my foci are so intertwined. Most of my course focuses on the “how” and the “tools” for informing decisionmakers, and that’s what I did prior to coming to UIC and continue to do with my research. Balancing teaching and research is not as challenging as balancing the teaching, research, advising, service and everything else we do in academia (along with trying to have a life outside of academia). To be honest, I’m still definitely a work in progress when it comes to balancing it all.

What’s your advice to students who want to focus their future careers on research?

Do something that you are passionate about. For me, I focus on policy change as my vehicle for my research as my goal is to make some type of difference in this world. One of things that I am most proud of with my school-related work is knowing that I truly impacted my son’s life while he was in public school — research that I and my UIC colleagues conducted provided an evidence base for federal regulations restricting junk foods in school and promoting a culture of health and wellness.