Melissa N Laska

University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, Minnesota, United States

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Publications (57)133.92 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about the complex patterning of weight-related health behaviors in 2- and 4-year college students. The objective of this study was to identify and describe unique classes of weight-related health behaviors among college students. Latent class analysis was used to identify homogenous, mutually exclusive classes of nine health behaviors that represent multiple theoretically/clinically relevant dimensions of obesity risk among 2- versus 4-year college students using cross-sectional statewide surveillance data (N = 17,584). Additionally, differences in class membership on selected sociodemographic characteristics were examined using a model-based approach. Analysis was conducted separately for both college groups, and five and four classes were identified for 2- and 4-year college students, respectively. Four classes were similar across 2- and 4-year college groups and were characterized as "mostly healthy dietary habits, active"; "moderately high screen time, active"; "moderately healthy dietary habits, inactive"; and "moderately high screen time, inactive." "Moderately healthy dietary habits, high screen time" was the additional class unique to 2-year college students. These classes differed on a number of sociodemographic characteristics, including the proportion in each class who were classified as obese. Implications for prevention scientists and future intervention programs are considered.
    Health education & behavior : the official publication of the Society for Public Health Education. 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Young adults are at risk for weight gain in the transition to independent adulthood; 2-year college students are at greater risk and understudied relative to 4-year students. This project conducted formative research for a randomized controlled weight gain prevention trial among 2-year college students, to ensure appropriateness of content and delivery of a curriculum originally developed for 4-year college students. Data were collected from community college students, faculty, and staff from October 2009 to August 2011. Work included focus groups and key informant interviews, curriculum pilot testing, and social network and support website beta testing. Based on focus groups and interviews, program content, course delivery modes, and communication channels were adjusted to meet population interests and preferences. The course was delivered successfully in pilot testing, and the website was received well by beta testers. Formative work successfully guided program adaptations to address population needs.
    Translational behavioral medicine. 06/2014; 4(2):160-9.
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives. We examined trends from 1999 to 2010 in adolescents' self-reported fast-food restaurant use alongside maternal reports of fast-food consumption and purchasing from restaurants for family meals. Methods. Middle- and high-school student participants from Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota, represented diverse ethnic/racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Adolescents completed classroom-administered surveys and maternal caregivers responded by phone or mail. Results. The overall prevalence of frequent fast-food consumption, defined as 3 or more times per week, decreased from 1999 to 2010 among adolescents (1999: 25%; 2010: 19%; P < .001) and maternal caregivers (1999: 17%; 2010: 11%; P < .001), but sociodemographic disparities were apparent. For example, the prevalence of frequent fast-food consumption remained highest and did not significantly decrease among Black or Native American youths. The overall prevalence of frequent fast-food purchases for family meals did not significantly decrease; large decreases were observed only among Hispanic families (1999: 18%; 2010: 6%; P < .001). Conclusions. In light of previous findings linking frequent fast-food consumption to greater weight gain and poor nutrition, the observed decreases in consumption are encouraging and interventions are needed to address observed disparities. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print March 13, 2014: e1-e8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301805).
    American Journal of Public Health 03/2014; · 3.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To document implementation challenges and opportunities associated with small store interventions. Case study analysis of small store interventions conducted in 4 regions of the US. We systematically generated matrices to compare and contrast lessons learned to advance implementation science. Seven thematic areas were identified including: establishing relationships with stores, store owner and customer relationships, selection of intervention approaches, stocking healthier foods, evaluation, maintenance of changes, and dissemination. This information provides guidance to researchers and practitioners wishing to design, implement, and evaluate small store interventions.
    American journal of health behavior 03/2014; 38(2):307-15. · 1.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: The objective of this study was to explore disparities in weight and weight-related behaviors by transgender identity. Methods: Cross-sectional regression models were fit using 2007-2011 College Student Health Survey data. Results: Compared to their non-transgender counterparts, transgender students (N = 53) were more likely to be either underweight [adjusted relative risk (95% CI): 4.78 (1.61-14.18)] or obese [2.45 (1.21-4.93)], and less likely to meet recommendations for strenuous physical activity [1.16 (1.01-1.34)], strengthening physical activity [1.32 (1.11-1.56)], and screen time [1.20 (1.02-1.41)]. Conclusions: More research is needed to understand the unique social contexts of transgender college students with regard to weight status, physical activity, and screen time to inform intervention and policy development and implementation.
    Health Behavior and Policy Review. 01/2014; 1(2).
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    ABSTRACT: To examine associations between young adults' dietary behaviors and perceived social norms for healthy eating. Cross-sectional survey of 1000 diverse college students. Associations between perceived behaviors of family, friends, and significant other and participants' dietary behaviors were examined using t-tests and linear regression. Young adults consumed more fast food if they perceived that their family, friends, or significant other did so (p < .003). Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was associated with perceived consumption by family and friends (p < .035). Fruit and vegetable consumption and dinner preparation were associated with perceived behavior of friends only (p < .001). Young adults' dietary behaviors appear to reflect their perceptions of normative behavior, particularly among friends.
    American journal of health behavior 01/2014; 38(1):144-52. · 1.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objective Cooking programs are growing in popularity; however, an extensive review has not examined their overall impact. Therefore, this study reviewed previous research on cooking/home food preparation interventions and diet and health-related outcomes among adults and identified implications for practice and research. Design Literature review and descriptive summative method. Main Outcome Measures Dietary intake, knowledge/skills, cooking attitudes and self-efficacy/confidence, health outcomes. Analysis Articles evaluating the effectiveness of interventions that included cooking/home food preparation as the primary aim (January, 1980 through December, 2011) were identified via Ovid MEDLINE, Agricola, and Web of Science databases. Studies grouped according to design and outcomes were reviewed for validity using an established coding system. Results were summarized for several outcome categories. Results Of 28 studies identified, 12 included a control group with 6 as nonrandomized and 6 as randomized controlled trials. Evaluation was done postintervention for 5 studies, pre- and postintervention for 23, and beyond postintervention for 15. Qualitative and quantitative measures suggested a positive influence on main outcomes. However, nonrigorous study designs, varying study populations, and the use of nonvalidated assessment tools limited stronger conclusions. Conclusions and Implications Well-designed studies are needed that rigorously evaluate long-term impact on cooking behavior, dietary intake, obesity and other health outcomes.
    Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Young adults are at risk for weight gain. Little is known about how to design weight control programs to meet the needs of young adults and few theory-based interventions have been evaluated in a randomized control trial. The Choosing Healthy Options in College Environments and Settings (CHOICES) study was funded to create a technology-based program for 2-year community college students to help prevent unhealthy weight gain. The purpose of this paper is to: 1) provide a brief background on weight-related interventions in young adults; 2) describe the study design for the CHOICES study, the conceptual model guiding the research and the CHOICES intervention; and 3) discuss implications of this research for health educators.
    American journal of health education / American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. 01/2014; 45(2):67-75.
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    ABSTRACT: Most young adults do not consume recommended levels of fruits and vegetables (F/V), and interventions to increase F/V-related behaviors among this understudied population are needed. Therefore, it is important to identify correlates of F/V intake among young adults to guide intervention development. This cross-sectional study used data from an online survey to identify factors related to young adults' F/V purchasing, preparation, and consumption, and to explore between-factor relationships using mediation analysis. In 2010, 1,201 college students in Minnesota completed questionnaires assessing F/V behaviors as well as perceptions of F/V-related individual, social, and environmental factors. Factor analysis identified questionnaire items assessing similar constructs. Seven factors were identified (personal barriers, F/V knowledge, family, friends, neighborhood, access barriers, and campus) and evaluated for relationships with F/V purchasing, preparation, and consumption using linear regression. Results revealed that perceived personal barriers (eg, lacking cooking skills) were inversely related to all F/V outcomes. Perception that family and friends eat healthfully and neighborhood access to F/V were positively related to all outcomes. Individual-, social-, and environment-level perceptions were related to purchasing, preparation, and consumption, and the effects of these factors were similar when accounting for mediated effects. Factors at all three levels and the ways in which these various factors operate together may be important to consider in future efforts to improve F/V behaviors among young adults.
    Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 08/2013; · 3.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We examined trends in cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use by eventual educational attainment in 1,902 participants from Project EAT, a 10-year longitudinal study following participants from early adolescence through young adulthood. Generally, for cigarettes and marijuana, disparities were evident by early adolescence with prevalence of use highest among those who had no secondary education. With alcohol, use diverged during young adulthood when the college group reported the most weekly alcohol use while those without postsecondary education reported greatest daily use. When disparities in substance use behaviors first emerge and later escalate can guide how to craft and target interventions.
    Substance Use &amp Misuse 07/2013; · 1.11 Impact Factor
  • Jennifer E Pelletier, Melissa N Laska
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Purpose . To examine the association between college students' dietary patterns and frequency of purchasing food/beverages from campus area venues, purchasing fast food, and bringing food from home. Design . Cross-sectional Student Health and Wellness Study. Setting . One community college and one public university in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Subjects . Diverse college students living off campus (n = 1059; 59% nonwhite; mean [SD] age, 22 [5] years). Measures . Participants self-reported sociodemographic characteristics and frequency of purchasing food/beverages around campus, purchasing fast food, and bringing food from home. Campus area purchases included à la carte facilities, vending machines, beverages, and nearby restaurants/stores. Dietary outcomes included breakfast and evening meal consumption (d/wk) and summary variables of fruit and vegetable, dairy, calcium, fiber, added sugar, and fat intake calculated from food frequency screeners. Analysis . The associations between each purchasing behavior and dietary outcomes were examined using t-tests and linear regression. Results . Approximately 45% of students purchased food/beverages from at least one campus area venue ≥3 times per week. Frequent food/beverage purchasing around campus was associated with less frequent breakfast consumption and higher fat and added sugar intake, similar to fast-food purchasing. Bringing food from home was associated with healthier dietary patterns. Conclusion . Increasing the healthfulness of campus food environments and promoting healthy food and beverage purchasing around campuses may be an important target for nutrition promotion among college students.
    American journal of health promotion: AJHP 04/2013; · 2.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Scant evidence is available on the relationship between preferences for organic, local, sustainable, and nonprocessed foods (ie, alternative food production practices) and dietary quality. This cross-sectional study examined the characteristics and dietary behaviors (eg, consumption of fruits, vegetables, fast food) of young adults who reported placing low, moderate, or high importance on alternative food production practices. A diverse sample of 1,201 students at a 2-year community college and a 4-year public university in the Twin Cities, MN, completed the Student Health and Wellness Study survey in spring 2010. χ(2) tests examined differences in attitudes across demographic characteristics. Linear regression adjusted dietary intake across attitudes. About half (49%) of young adults placed moderate to high importance on alternative production practices, and few demographic differences across attitudes were found. Young adults who placed high importance on alternative production practices consumed 1.3 more servings of fruits and vegetables (P<0.001), more dietary fiber (P<0.001), fewer added sugars (P<0.001), fewer sugar-sweetened beverages (P=0.001), and less fat (P=0.025) than those who placed low importance on these practices. Young adults who placed high importance on alternative food production practices also consumed breakfast approximately 1 more day per week and fast food half as often as those who placed low importance on these practices (P<0.001). Study findings suggest that nutrition messaging around social and environmental implications of food production practices may be well received by this age group. Experimental studies are needed to investigate whether attitudes toward alternative production practices can be manipulated to improve dietary quality.
    Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 01/2013; 113(1):127-32. · 3.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Obesity prevalence in the rural United States is higher than in urban or suburban areas, perhaps as a result of the food environment. Because rural residents live farther from supermarkets than their urban- and suburban-dwelling counterparts, they may be more reliant on smaller corner stores that offer fewer healthful food items. As part of a Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) healthy corner store initiative, we reviewed audit tools in the fall of 2010 to measure the consumer food environment in eastern North Carolina and chose the NEMS-S-Rev (Nutrition Environment Measures Survey-Stores-Revised) to assess 42 food stores. During the spring and summer of 2011, 2 trained graduate assistants audited stores, achieving interrater reliability of at least 80%. NEMS-S-Rev scores of stores in rural versus urban areas were compared. Overall, healthful foods were less available and of lower quality in rural areas than in urban areas. NEMS-S-Rev scores indicated that healthful foods were more likely to be available and had similar pricing and quality in rural corner stores than in urban corner stores. Food store audit data provided a baseline to implement and evaluate a CPPW healthy corner store initiative in Pitt County. This work serves as a case study, providing lessons learned for engaging community partners when conducting rural food store audits.
    Preventing chronic disease 01/2013; 10:E121. · 1.82 Impact Factor
  • Nicole A VanKim, Nicole Larson, Melissa N Laska
    Adolescent medicine: state of the art reviews 12/2012; 23(3):571-88.
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    ABSTRACT: To describe time-related beliefs and behaviors regarding healthful eating, indicators of dietary intake, and their associations with the number of weekly hours of paid work among young adults. Population-based study in a diverse cohort (N=2287). Working > 40 hours per week was associated with time-related barriers to healthful eating most persistently among young adult men. Associations were found among females working both part-time and > 40 hours per week with both time-related barriers and dietary intake. Findings indicate that intervention strategies, ideally those addressing time burden, are needed to promote healthful eating among young, working adults.
    American journal of health behavior 11/2012; 36(6):786-96. · 1.31 Impact Factor
  • Jennifer E Pelletier, Melissa N Laska
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    ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: To characterize associations between perceived time constraints for healthy eating and work, school, and family responsibilities among young adults. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey. SETTING: A large, Midwestern metropolitan region. PARTICIPANTS: A diverse sample of community college (n = 598) and public university (n = 603) students. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Time constraints in general, as well as those specific to meal preparation/structure, and perceptions of a healthy life balance. ANALYSIS: Chi-square tests and multivariate logistic regression (α = .005). RESULTS: Women, 4-year students, and students with lower socioeconomic status perceived more time constraints (P < .001-.002); students with lower socioeconomic status were less likely to have a healthy balance (P ≤ .003). Having a heavy course load and working longer hours were important predictors of time constraints among men (P < .001-.004), whereas living situation and being in a relationship were more important among women (P = .002-.003). CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Most young adults perceive time constraints on healthy dietary behaviors, yet some young adults appear able to maintain a healthy life balance despite multiple time demands. Interventions focused on improved time management strategies and nutrition-related messaging to achieve healthy diets on a low time budget may be more successful if tailored to the factors that contribute to time constraints separately among men and women.
    Journal of nutrition education and behavior 09/2012; · 1.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence is building regarding the association between inadequate amounts of sleep and the risk of obesity, especially in younger children. Less is known about the relationship between change in sleep and change in weight during adolescence. The objective of this study was to examine the longitudinal relationship between change in sleep duration and change in body mass index (BMI) and percent body fat (PBF) in a cohort of adolescents. The cohort included 723 adolescents (mean age = 14.7 years at baseline) from Minnesota. Total sleep duration was assessed via self-report. BMI and PBF were objectively assessed. Covariates used in the multivariate analyses included energy intake as assessed through 24-hour recalls, activity levels as assessed by accelerometers, screen time/sedentary behavior, depression, and sociodemographic characteristics. For both males and females, average BMI and PBF increased slightly over the 2 years and average sleep duration decreased by about 30 minutes. The authors saw no statistically significant longitudinal relationships between change in total sleep and change in BMI or PBF over time in either girls or boys. The only longitudinal relationship that approached statistical significance was a positive association between sleep and PBF in females (p = .068). This research contributes to the literature as the only study to date to examine how change in sleep duration during adolescence may be related to a concomitant change in BMI and body fat. The findings of this study do not support the hypothesis that a decline in sleep duration during adolescence increases obesity risk.
    Health Education &amp Behavior 09/2012; · 1.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To understand vendor perspectives regarding changes made in 2009 to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) food package. Fifty-two in-depth, qualitative interviews with owners or managers of small stores in 8 urban areas across 7 states conducted 6-12 months after the changes. Store owners experienced implementation challenges, but felt the changes increased the number of customers, sales, and profits. This research provides vendor perspectives on the 2009 WIC policy changes and may enhance policy implementation directed at increasing healthy food availability, particularly in urban communities.
    American journal of health behavior 09/2012; 36(5):655-65. · 1.31 Impact Factor
  • Nicole A VanKim, Melissa N Laska
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    ABSTRACT: To explore weight, weight behaviors, and tobacco and alcohol use among emerging adults by parental education and financial strain. Cross-sectional analyses of 2010 survey data from an urban Minnesota public 4-year university and 2-year community college (n=1201). Low parental education was associated with lower fruit/vegetable consumption and physical activity and more fast food and unhealthy weight control. Financial strain was associated with less physical activity and more unhealthy weight control, binge drinking, and tobacco use. Unique relationships exist between socioeconomic indicators and emerging adult health behaviors. Additional research is needed to understand financial context among emerging adults.
    American journal of health behavior 07/2012; 36(4):433-45. · 1.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Few young adults meet national recommendations to consume at least 2 c fruit and 2 to 3 c vegetables daily. Effective strategies and messaging are needed to address this disparity, but research examining influences on fruit and vegetable (F/V) intake during young adulthood has been limited and primarily cross-sectional. This study was conducted to identify 5-year and 10-year longitudinal predictors of F/V intake in young adulthood. The sample included 476 male and 654 female participants enrolled in a population-based cohort study (Projects EAT-I, II, and III [Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults]). Participants completed surveys and food frequency questionnaires in Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, high school classrooms in 1998-1999 (mean age=15.8 years, adolescence) and follow-up measures in 2003-2004 (mean age=20.4 years, emerging adulthood) and 2008-2009 (mean age=26.2 years, young adulthood). In young adulthood, average daily intake was 0.9 servings of fruit (excluding juice) and 1.8 servings of vegetables (excluding potatoes). Factors examined in adolescence and in emerging adulthood that were predictive of F/V intake in young adulthood included favorable taste preferences, fewer perceived time barriers to healthy eating, higher home availability of F/V, and limited home availability of unhealthy foods. Analyses also identified additional factors that were specifically relevant to fruit (eg, breakfast patterns) or vegetable intake (eg, home food preparation) and of particular relevance during emerging adulthood (eg, significant other's healthy eating attitudes). Findings suggest individual and socioenvironmental factors, particularly food preferences and home food availability, during adolescence and emerging adulthood may influence F/V intake in young adulthood.
    Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 06/2012; 112(8):1216-22. · 3.80 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

407 Citations
133.92 Total Impact Points


  • 2009–2014
    • University of Minnesota Duluth
      • Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
      Duluth, Minnesota, United States
    • University of Minnesota Twin Cities
      • • Division of Epidemiology and Community Health
      • • Department of Pediatrics
      • • Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
      Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 2012
    • University of South Carolina
      • Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
      Columbia, SC, United States
  • 2010–2011
    • University of Virginia
      • Curry School of Education
      Charlottesville, VA, United States
    • South Dakota State University
      Brookings, South Dakota, United States