Professor Sarah Elizabeth Messiah PhD MPH



Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY                    BA 1989 Psychology, sport and health

Florida International University, Miami, FL              MPH 1997 Epidemiology, maternal child health

University of Miami, Miami, FL PhD 2005 Epidemiology, perinatal subspecialty


Academic Title: Professor (tenured) of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, UTSPH

Professor of Pediatrics, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Director, Center for Pediatric Population Health, a Children’s Health and UTSPH collaborative


Academic Profile: Dr. Messiah has published extensively in two main areas of research (1) the epidemiologic investigation of risk factors for childhood obesity and cardiometabolic disease biomarkers with emphasis on ethnic and racial disparities; and (2) the implementation of evidence-based practices into clinical settings to prevent childhood-onset obesity and treat severe obesity. She has authored and edited two books, ten chapters, and over 100 original research papers and 200 scientific abstracts. Her research has been funded from both federal grants and  private foundation sources. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2011 Micah Batchelor Award for Excellence in Children’s Health Research, the 2012 Miami Dade County Commissioners’ Women Leadership Award for Science and Technology, the 2014 C.W. Chuck Pezoldt Award for outstanding community service, and a 2016 outstanding abstract prize at the Obesity Society annual meeting.


Scholarship Area #1.  Dr. Messiah’s career has focused on the population prevalence of health-related comorbidities associated with obesity during the pediatric years. Her doctoral dissertation documented the extent of obesity-related comorbidities in childhood, which were disproportionately prevalent in ethnic minority groups. Her publications in the Journal of Pediatrics (Relationship Between Body Mass Index and Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors Among US 8 to 14 Year Olds, 1999-2002; Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Adolescents) and Obesity (Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors among Preschool-Age Children in the United States; Ethnic Differences in Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome Components Independent of Body Mass Index among American Youth, 1999-2008) were some of the first to significantly contribute to this important field. Her interest in population-level pediatric severe obesity has led to key publications in the pediatric bariatric surgery literature, including Ethnic Group Differences in Weight Loss among Adolescents Undergoing Bariatric Surgery: 1-Year Results from the Bariatric Outcomes Longitudinal Database  (World J of Diabetes); and Changes in Weight and Comorbidities among Morbidly Obese Adolescents Undergoing Bariatric Surgery: 1-Year Results from the Bariatric Outcomes Longitudinal Database (Surg Obes Rel Diseases).


Scholarship Area #2. Dr. Messiah is also internationally known for her dissemination and implementation of interventions to decrease the childhood obesity epidemic among vulnerable groups in preschools, elementary schools, and afterschool settings. She has been the Co-Principal Investigator of local- and USDA-funded work research for a decade to implement obesity prevention strategies in childcare centers that have led to recognition by the Bipartisan Policy Center for its attention to center-level environmental and policy change (Healthy Caregivers-Healthy Children Phase 2: Integrating Culturally Sensitive Childhood Obesity Prevention Strategies into Childcare Center Policies, Contemporary Clin Trials). She has also received international notoriety for her unique partnership with the Miami Dade County Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces to develop and implement the park-based Fit2Play afterschool program to promote childhood healthy weight and cardiometabolic health. Her team’s research findings were the first to document biomedical health benefits of park-based afterschool programming (Impact of a Park-Based Afterschool Program Replicated over Five Years on Modifiable Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors, Prev Med; Effect of a Park-Based Afterschool Program on Participant Obesity-Related Health Outcomes, Am J of Health Prom). This program gained the attention of the White House and First Lady Michelle Obama, and in 2014, a Miami Dade County Park was chosen to announce the partnership of her Let’s Move program with the National Recreation and Parks Association. Additionally, Fit2Play was a cornerstone achievement in Miami Dade County securing the 2016 Culture of Health prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is the National Recreation and Park Association’s model of excellence to promote healthy weight in children across the nation.


Dr. Messiah has served as an expert advisor to promote healthy weight and cardiometabolic health throughout childhood on numerous national organizations, including the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, The University of Tennessee’s Maternal and Child Health Advisory Board, the American Heart Association’s Policy Recommendations for Obesity Prevention and Health Promotion in Child Care Settings, University of California Berkeley’s Center for Weight and Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Women’s Sports Foundation, and the Florida Department of Health.