Shu Wen Ng, PhD

Associate Professor Department of Nutrition

T:(919) 962-6188

Carolina Population Center

137 East Franklin Street

CB #8120

Chapel Hill, NC 27516


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.

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 Public Affairs Committee

• Carolina Population Center Training Committee

• Department of Nutrition MPH Committee

Key Publications

"Estimating Added Sugars in US Consumer Packaged Goods: An application to beverages in 2007-08". Ng SW, G Bricker, K Li, EF Yoon, J Kang, B Westrich. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis..

“Is the degree of food processing and convenience linked with the nutritional quality of foods purchased by US households?”. Poti, JM., MA Mendez, SW Ng, BM Popkin. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition..

“The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation pledge: Calories sold from U.S. consumer packaged goods, 2007-2012”. Ng SW, MM Slining, BM Popkin (2014). American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 47(4), 508-519.

"The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation pledge: Calories Purchased by US households with children, 2000-2012”. Ng SW, BM Popkin. 2014 (2014). American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 47(4), 520-520.

“A turning point for US diets: Recessionary effects or behavioral shifts in foods purchased and consumed?”. Ng SW, MM Slining, BM Popkin (2014). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99.


PhD, Health Policy and Management (Economics), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2009

BA, BSc, Economics, International Studies, Duke University, 2001