Research of Caitlin Caspi

headshot of Caitlin CaspiCaitlin Caspi, ScD, is a social epidemiologist whose research focuses on social determinants of health. Her work evaluates policies and interventions addressing diet-related health disparities, including food insecurity and obesity.

She completed her ScD at the Harvard School of Public Health and her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota as part of the NCI-funded Cancer-Related Health Disparities Career Development and Education R25 program.

As a member of the DFMCH faculty since 2014, she is currently the Principal Investigator of two NIH R01s that explore how public policy and community-led initiatives influence health equity and outcomes for communities.

WAGE$ (“A Natural Experiment Evaluating the Effect of a Minimum Wage Increase on Obesity and Diet-Related Outcomes”) evaluates how an increase in Minneapolis’ minimum wage to $15 an hour affects the health and wellbeing of minimum-wage workers over a period of five years. This study, which utilizes a cohort of nearly 1,000 low-wage workers from Minneapolis and Raleigh, North Carolina (the comparison community where there is no increase in minimum wage), is unique in that it prospectively tracks individuals and their health as income changes across all sectors of the low-wage workforce.

SuperShelf (“A Multilevel Intervention in the Hunger Relief Network to Improve Diet Among Adults Experiencing Food Insecurity”) is a partnership-based initiative that works to transform food shelves (food pantries) for communities to access healthy and appealing food. Dr. Caspi’s evaluation project will measure the impact of this behavioral economic intervention on both the food shelves and the outcomes of their clients in 16 food shelves, focusing on diet-related outcomes and client satisfaction. SuperShelf’s 2017 statewide client survey has provided a roadmap for hunger relief systems-change.  

In other recent work, Dr. Caspi has served as a Co-PI (Co-PI Gretchen Cutler) on a study addressing food insecurity in the pediatric Emergency Department through a screening and referral-based intervention, and as a Co-Investigator on the STaple Foods Ordinance Evaluation (STORE) study evaluating the effects of a Minneapolis ordinance that sets minimum stocking standards for healthy and staple foods in all licensed grocery stores in the city.

Dr. Caspi serves as Associate Director of the Healthy Eating and Activity Across the Lifespan (HEAL) Center, which promotes an integrated approach to addressing health disparities that bridges between research, community, policy and clinical practice.

Current grant-funded projects

Current grant-funded projects

2018-2023   NIH/NIDDK R01, Principal Investigator: “A Natural Experiment Evaluating the Effect of a Minimum Wage Increase on Obesity and Diet-Related Outcomes”

2017-2022    NIH/NHLBI R01, Principal Investigator: “A Multilevel Intervention in the Hunger Relief Network to Improve Diet Among Adults Experiencing Food Insecurity”

Key publications

Key publications

Caspi CE, Canterbury M, Grannon K, Bain J, Bohen L, Peterson H, Kottke T. A behavioral economics approach to improving healthy food selection among food pantry clients. Public Health Nutrition. Epub ahead of print 3/12/19. doi: 10.1017/S1368980019000405.

Caspi CE, Grannon KY, Wang Q, Nanney MS, King RP. Refining and implementing the Food Assortment Scoring Tool (FAST) in food pantries. Public Health Nutrition. 2018.; 21 (14), 2548-2557.

Caspi CE, Lenk K, Pelletier J, Barnes T, Harnack L, Erikson D, Laska MN. Association between store environment and customer purchases in small grocery stores, gas-marts, pharmacies and dollar stores. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2017; 14:76.

Taillie LS, Grummon A, Fleishhacker S, Grigsby-Toussaint D, Leone L, Caspi CE. Best practices for using natural experiments to evaluate retail food and beverage interventions and policies. Nutrition Reviews, 2017; 75(12):971-989. 

Berge J, Adamek M, Caspi C, Loth K, Shanafelt S, Stovitz S, Trofholz A, Young K, Nanney MS.  Healthy Eating and Activity Across the Lifespan (HEAL): a call to action to integrate research, clinical practice, policy and community resources to address weight-related health disparities. Preventive Medicine, 2017; 101:199-203.

Caspi CE, Lenk K, Pelletier JE, Barnes T, Harnack L, Erikson D, Laska MN. Food and beverage purchases in small grocery stores, gas-marts, pharmacies and dollar stores. Public Health Nutrition, 2017; 20(14):2587-2597.

Caspi CE, Friebur R, Davey CS, Nanney MS. Results of a pilot intervention to improve dietary outcomes among adults experiencing food insecurity. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 2017; 12(1):77-88.

Caspi CE, Friebur R. Modified ground-truthing: an accurate and cost-effective food environment validation method for town and rural areas. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2016; 13:37.

Caspi CE,Davey CS, Nelson TF, Larson N, Kubik MY, Coombes B, Nanney MS. Disparities persist in nutrition policies and practices in Minnesota secondary schools. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics  2015; 115(3):419-425

Caspi CE, Kawachi I, Subramanian SV, Sorensen G. The food environment and diet: A systematic review. Health and Place 2012; 18 :1172–1187.