Utilizing an ecological approach to improve physical activity in communities

All too often, many are quick to diagnose that obesity or sedentary behavior is solely the result of a deficit in individual motivation.  From working with senior citizens to examining the behaviors of adolescents, Dr. Jacqueline Kerr of University of California, San Diego, proves the contrary.  There are external factors which contribute to the "ecological" well-being of an individual, and these factors consequently affect an entire community's overall physical-activity levels.  An ecological approach rests upon the harmonious intersection of the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and physical environment - the heart of Dr. Kerr's research lies at this intersection, at which she is determined to uncover groundbreaking insights.   

  • Dr. Kerr explores  if outdoor physical activity is better for our health than indoor physical activity

  • Dr. Kerr believes a community approach to physical activity increases individual activity

  • Dr. Kerr develops training for senior citizens to lead physical activity and community advocacy programs

  • Through the utilization of personally-worn cameras, Dr. Kerr uncovers better methods to integrate physical activity into an individual's daily behaviors, social interactions and environments

Dr. Kerr's research not only exposes the great importance for improving physical activity, but in addition, her research findings serve as pioneering case-studies for local and national governments.  Dr. Kerr provides bona fide examples of ways in which to improve the ecological environment for a community, or even an entire nation, so that citizens can live a more active and healthy lifestyle.


Jacqueline Kerr received her PhD from the University of Birmingham, England in 2001 studying interventions and environments that promote stair use. After three years in the Munich Cancer Registry focusing on quality of life and breast/colorectal cancer, Dr. Kerr moved to Active Living Research in San Diego.

Dr. Kerr is currently a Professor at University of California, San Diego in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, and researcher in the Center for Wireless and population Health Systems at the Qualcomm Institute.

Dr. Kerr's expertise in physical activity and location measurement inform improved evaluation of behavior change interventions. An example is the NHLBI funded MIPARC study in Continuing Care Retirement Communities, which includes community advocacy.

Dr. Kerr works on several NIH funded R01 projects with Dr. Sallis on neighborhood correlates of physical activity in children, teens, adults and older adults, including two international studies in adults and teens (see www.ipenproject.org). 

Dr. Kerr leads several NCI funded projects collecting and processing GPS data, including developing software to aggregate and process GPS data (see http://ucsd-palms-project.wikispaces.com/).

Dr Kerr has lead a review and several workshops on this topic (seehttp://www.activelivingresearch.org/files/2012_UsingTechnology_Marshall-Schipperijn-Foster-Kerr.pdf) and can help researchers include GPS data in their projects with protocols for IRBs, data collection, processing, matching with GIS etc. 

Her expertise in physical activity and location measurement inform improved evaluation of behavior change interventions.

She received the Junior Investigator Award from the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of California, San Diego in 2007.

Dr. Kerr is PI of two NCI funded R01 grants using Machine Learning techniques to classify physical activity types and sedentary behaviors from raw accelerometer, GPS and heart rate data. Annotated truth images from a SenseCam person worn camera are employed in this work and Dr Kerr is helping to advance this field (http://www.sensecam.ucsd.edu/).