Research of Jerica Berge, PhD, MPH

Meet Jerica Berge, PhD, MPH

jerica-bergeFamily Fortress logo depicting a house and white picket fence. The left side is orange and the right is blue. There are two circles on each side of the graphic. One above the roof and one on the side of the house.

Jerica Berge, PhD, MPH, LMFT, CFLE, is an associate professor and Vice Chair for Research at the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. She is both a researcher and a behavioral medicine provider.

Family Fortress is the umbrella name of Berge's research. Her research aims to leverage family relationships in the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent obesity using innovative mixed-methodologies such as ecological momentary assessment (EMA) and video-recorded observations.

Additionally, Berge is the co-director of the Healthy Eating and Activity across the Lifespan (HEAL) center, which focuses on integration across research, clinical practice, policy, and community resources to inspire a culture of health. She also serves as an associate director of the University of Minnesota Citizen Professional Center, which conducts and promotes community-based participatory research on problems of concern to communities and professionals.

Berge is also a licensed marriage and family therapist and an approved marriage and family therapy supervisor who specializes in integrated behavioral health care in family medicine and primary care. She supervises doctoral-level behavioral medicine interns and medical residents in family medicine and primary care settings, regarding integrated, collaborative care.


Current studies

  • Family Matters: Addresses unanswered questions related to the home environment and childhood obesity disparities
  • Association Between Family Meals and Child Health and Well-BeingA secondary data analysis answering important questions regarding the quality of family meals, both in regards to meal dietary healthfulness and the emotional atmosphere at the meal
  • 5-2-1-0: Clinic-based study examining the effectiveness of using 5-2-1-0 messages during well-child visits to address population-level childhood obesity
  • Prenatal Group Visits: Examines the feasibility and initial effectiveness of prenatal group visits in a family medicine residency program
  • Project EAT and F-EAT (Co-investigator): Examines individual, dyadic, and familial level weight and weight-related risk and protective factors related to adolescents' weight status, eating patterns, and physical activity
  • NET-Works (Co-Investigator): Integrates primary care, homes, and community-based intervention strategies to promote change in food intake, physical activity, and body weight in children

Past studies

  • All in the Family (Co-principal investigator): Examines the relationship between family members' weight and weight-related behaviors and adolescents' body mass index (BMI), dietary intake, and physical activity
  • Family Meals, LIVE!: Uses innovative mixed-methods data collection (e.g., iPad video recording of family meals) to examine factors within the home food environment that are associated with risk and protective factors for childhood obesity
  • Family Meals, LIVE!: Sibling Edition: Examines parent feeding behaviors with more than one child in the home
  • Paha Sapa: Play It Forward: Uses the Citizen Health Care model to deliver a community-based participatory research initiative targeting childhood and adolescent obesity in the Paha Sapa Park area of Burnsville, Minnesota
  • UMatter (Co-principal investigator): Delivers adolescent obesity prevention/intervention to girls ages 10 to 14 and their mothers, using a health care home model in a primary care setting

Research team

Junia N. de Brito, MPH, MBA 

Research studyFamily Matters

Junia is a second-year Social/Behavioral Epidemiology doctoral student in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, at the University of Minnesota. She is a dietitian and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition &
Dietetics from UniBH, Brazil. Junia also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Bellevue University and a Master of Public Health Nutrition degree from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include the evaluation of diet and
disease relationships in epidemiologic studies, the synergy of nutrition and physical activity in the etiology and prevention of health problems, and family relationships in the prevention of childhood obesity. Junia currently works as a research assistant in several
projects both within the Epidemiology and Community Health division and the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. She has gained valuable experience in primary data collection, data management, and quantitative and qualitative data analysis.

Sherri Fong, MPH

Research study: Family Matters

Sherri Fong, MPH, assists with data collection and qualitative analysis for Family Matters.

She also is a community program assistant with the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. She works with various faculty members in the department, assisting with their research studies.

She is particularly interested in working within communities to provide education and opportunities to improve their health.

Nabila Mohamed

Research studyFamily Matters

Nabila serves as a community program assistant for the Family Matters study. She received her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Physiology from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include understanding how and why health disparities disproportionately affect marginalized communities. She is pursuing a Medical Degree in hopes of addressing these health disparities by working with underserved populations. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, volunteering, mentoring, reading, eating ice cream, and doing henna.

Samaria Mountain

Research studyFamily Matters

Samaria is a community program assistant with the Family Matters Study in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. She is currently pursuing a masters degree at the University of Minnesota. She is particularly interested in working with low income communities to address and minimize health disparities.


Research study: Family Matters

SoLaHmo (Somali, Latino and Hmong Partnership for Health and Wellness) works in partnership with the University of Minnesota on the Family Matters study.

SoLaHmo is made up of Somali, Latino, and Hmong community members and health care professionals.

Allan Tate, MPH

Research studies:

Allan Tate's research interests lie at the intersection of family demography and social epidemiology. His ongoing research examines the family level determinants of child weight and individual differences in child food-related behaviors. Other projects examine the dietary determinants of elderly health, parenting practices, and fertility desires in settings of political conflict.

Tate has a passion for leveraging quantitative analytical techniques to answer important research questions in observational and large scale population survey data. He is trained in a variety of statistical techniques that include multiple regression, hierarchical linear regression, and generalized estimating equations for application to a variety of research designs.

He holds appointments as a research assistant supporting the Family Meals, LIVE! research study and receives mentorship as a population studies and demography trainee with the Minnesota Population Center.

Susan E. Telke, MS 

Research study: Family Matters

Susan is a Social/Behavioral Epidemiology doctoral student in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, at the University of Minnesota. She is a biostatistician and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Art from
University of Wisconsin, and a Master of Science degree in Biostatistics from University of Minnesota. For the last 20+ years, Susan has either been a staff researcher (Coordinating Centers for Biometric Research), teaching faculty (Biostatistics) or a graduate student (both Biostatistics and Epidemiology & Community Health) at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests span across departments and center around novel methodological approaches to analyzing non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g., nutrition, meditation and mindful movement) aimed at enhancing healthy behavior and wellbeing.  Susan currently works as a research assistant within the Epidemiology and Community Health division, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, and the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing.

Amanda Trofholz, MPH, RD

Research studies:

Amanda Trofholz, MPH, RD, is the project director for Family Matters and also serves as the nutrition coordinator for the study.

Her research interests include childhood obesity, food insecurity, and the home food environment. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, mosaics, and hanging out with her husband and two amazing daughters.

She received her MPH in nutrition from the University of Minnesota and is also a registered dietitian.

Chaoching Vang

Research study: Family Matters

Chaoching is an undergraduate student pursuing a BS in youth studies in the College of Education and Human Development. With this he wishes to help refugee families settle into the Twin Cities, focusing on providing resources and opportunities to young refugees. 

In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, playing sports, camping outdoors, and binge watching TV shows.

Natalie Wharton

Research study: Family Matters

Natalie Wharton is a graduate research assistant supporting Family Matter’s Spanish-speaking participants in recruitment and retention as well as data collection. She is pursuing an MA in Comparative International Development Education from the College of Education and Human Development. Her research interests include qualitative and community-based participatory approaches in education and curriculum development, which strive to advance equity in educational and health outcomes for diverse communities.

Opportunities for students

There are many ways students can get involved with Berge's work.

  • Volunteering: Students volunteer a minimum of five hours a week and gain exposure to current studies and the research process
  • Class credit or independent study: Public health students can gain course credit and research experience by partnering with a current study
  • Capstone or class project: For students interested in topics such as childhood obesity, family meals, or dietary intake
  • Master's project or dissertation: Graduate students will have assistance from the research team to conduct and publish a secondary data analysis
  • Undergraduate and graduate research assistantships: We occasionally have openings for research assistants to support current research projects

If you're interested in getting involved, please e-mail Amanda Trofholz,