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

Bilala Bihi

Research study: Family Matters

Bilal Bihi serves as the lead recruiter for Somali study participants. He is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in history.

His interests outside of work and school include watching TV, surfing the internet, and sports.

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.

Hassan Issac

Research study: Family Matters

Hassan Isaac is a community program assistant for the Family Matters study. Hassan is the Somali point person for the study, and he also translates study material into Somali language.

His research interests include understanding the correlation between nutrition and neurodevelopmental disorders, promotion of mental health in the community, and health disparities.

In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his daughter and wife, playing soccer, reading, and volunteering in the community.

Nina Jacobs, MPH

Research study: Family Matters

Nina Jacobs, MPH serves as the recruitment coordinator for Family Matters. She is tasked with communicating with clinic partners, delegating communication with families, and tracking progress of survey and project completion.

Nina’s research interests include child and maternal nutrition, school nutrition policy, and healthy food access. She received her master’s degree from Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in nutrition and global community health. Her interests include trail running, yoga, and her cat named Meow.

Mireya Smith, MA

Research study: Family Matters

Mireya Smith, MA, is a graduate research assistant on the Family Matters study, where she assists with analyzing data and serving as an English and Spanish translator. She is currently pursuing her PhD in quantitative methods in education at the University of Minnesota with a focus in measuring learning.

Her research interests include how health disparities and social-emotional behavior affect the achievement gap in education.

In her life outside of graduate work, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her husband and son.


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.

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.

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,