Shu Wen Ng

Shu Wen Ng, PhD

Distinguished Scholar In Public Health Nutrition
Department of Nutrition
Department of Nutrition


Shu Wen Ng is a health economist whose main scholarly objective is to further understanding of individual and household-level decisions about dietary and activity behaviors and their health impact. Her research acknowledges that such decisions are constrained by monetary, time and biological factors, and are made within a broader environmental or policy context. To consider such behaviors, decisions and outcomes, Dr. Ng relies on tools and approaches from economics, epidemiology, sociology and public policy, and collaborates with others who have expertise in these disciplines. Dr. Ng’s research to date primarily involves innovations in: a) combining large secondary data sources to identify potential macro-level levers (e.g., policy, industry pledges); b) creating new metrics by which to measure shifts in the culture of eating and moving, and; c) analyzing the circumstances under which these shifts occur, so as to identify areas for effective and sustainable changes in individuals’ or households’ (micro-level) health behaviors, especially among the most vulnerable. 

Dr. Ng has been co-Investigator on several foundation and NIH studies that use ‘big-data’ on commercial store sales, household purchase, and nutrition label data at the barcode level (scanner data), alongside dietary intake and nutrition databases. Analyzing such data, she has studied how policies such as taxation or quotas affect consumer purchases, diet, nutrition, and health outcomes across many settings. In addition, Dr. Ng has analyzed historical time-use data from a range of countries to estimate activity levels across domains of daily living and to identify trends and patterns by subpopulations.

Shu Wen Ng in the Gillings News

Honors and Awards

Delta Omega Honorary Public Health Society

Frank Porter Graham Honor Society for “significant contributions to the development of graduate and professional student education at the University”
2015, UNC

Junior Faculty Development Award
2014, UNC

Research Activities

• Obesity prevention

• Physical activity

• Time use

• Health economics

• Behavioral economics

• Food and nutrition policy

Research Interests: Health Equity, Obesity, Public Health Ethics and Law

Service Activities

• TOS Diversity Committee

• Carolina Population Center Training Committee

• Department of Nutrition MPH Committee

Key Publications

Federal nutrition program revisions impact low-income households' food purchases. Ng SW, B Hollingsworth, EA Busey, J Wandell, DR Miles, JM Poti (2018). American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 54(3), 403-412.
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Trends in added sugars from packaged beverages available to and purchased by US households in 2007-2012. Ng SW, JD Ostrowski, KP Li (2017). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 106(1), 179-188.
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Changes in prices, sales, consumer spending and beverage consumption one year after a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley, USA: a before-and-after study. Silver L, §SW Ng, S Ryan-Ibarra, M Induni, DR Miles, JM Poti, LS Taillie, BM Popkin (2017). PLOS Medicine.
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Sustained consumer response: Evidence from two-years after the sugar sweetened beverage tax in Mexico. Colchero MA, BM Popkin, JA Rivera, SW Ng (2017). Health Affairs, 36(3), 564-571.
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Trends in race/ethnic and income disparities in foods and beverages consumed and purchased among US households with children, 2000-2013. Ng SW, JM Poti, BM Popkin (2016). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 104(3), 750-759.
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  • PhD, Health Policy and Management (Economics), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2009
  • BA, BSc, Economics, International Studies, Duke University, 2001