NCIPH’s Research Unit is a team of experienced leaders and experts in conducting applied research in public health. We work to deepen understanding of public health preparedness and recovery, community health assessment, accreditation, as well as public health policy and infrastructure. Our team possesses a range of skills and expertise in current research methods and approaches, including qualitative and quantitative data collection instrument design, implementation and analysis; public health systems and services research, geographic information systems (GIS),  social network analysis (SNA) and others.

Recent projects have been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Science Foundation, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the Public Health Accreditation Board, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Implementing Healthier Foodservice Guidelines in Hospital and Federal Worksite Cafeterias

Cafeteria service line with broccoli and sweet potato fries.

North Carolina Institute for Public Health analyzed data from hospital and federal worksite cafeterias as they implement healthy food guidelines. Photo by Amanda Mills, USCDCP.

Study 1: Understanding Barriers, Facilitators and Keys to Success

Healthy food service guidelines are being implemented in many worksites and hospitals to increase access to healthy foods and beverages for employees and customers. However, little research exists about the challenges faced by nutrition directors and their staff as they implement these guidelines.

With this in mind, the North Carolina Institute for Public Health recently has completed an analysis of data from hospital and federal worksite cafeteria managers and leaders to better understand the facilitators, barriers, and overall experiences of food service operators as they implement healthy food guidelines.

This project was undertaken as part of a cooperative agreement with the National Network of Public Health Institutes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, with support from the Partnership for Healthier America.

Read more about this study, including success stories highlighting the experiences of individual cafeteria operators.

Study 2: Best Practices for Financial Sustainability

In February and March 2017, a team including NCIPH Senior Investigator John Graham examined barriers and facilitators to financial sustainability of healthy food service guidelines and synthesized best practices for financial sustainability in retail operations. They conducted qualitative, in-depth interviews with 8 hospital food service directors to learn more about barriers and facilitators to financial sustainability of healthy food service guidelines in retail food service operations.

Two overarching themes emerged, related to 1) the demand for and sales of healthy foods and beverages, and 2) the production and supply of healthy foods and beverages. This study provides insights into how hospital food service directors can maximize revenue and remain financially viable while selling healthier options in on-site dining facilities.

Read more about this study.

Other examples of research projects

Featured publications and presentations

Davis CS, Carr D, Southwell JK, Beletsky L. (2015). Engaging Law Enforcement in Overdose Reversal Initiatives: Authorization and Liability for Naloxone Administration. American Journal of Public Health, 105(8), 1530-1537.

Jilcott Pitts SB, Graham J, Mojica A, Stewart L, Walter M, Schille C, McGinty J, Pearsall M, Whitt O, Mihas P, Bradley A, Simon C. (2016). Implementing healthier foodservice guidelines in hospital and federal worksite cafeterias: barriers, facilitators and keys to success. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12380

Matthews G, Burris S, Ledford SL, Baker E. (2016). Advocacy for Leaders: Crafting Richer Stories for Public Health. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 22(3), 311-315.

Decosimo KP, Simon MC, Wallace J. Measuring the Pulse of Your Community: Primary Data Collection Methods for Community Health Needs Assessments. North Carolina Public Health Association Annual Conference; September 17, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC.

Simon MC, Decosimo KP, Zelek, M, Holzchuh E. Collaborative development of Collect SMART: Survey Management and Response Tools for assessing the health of your community. American Public Health Association Annual Meeting; November 2, 2015; Chicago, IL.

Southwell J, Alexander L, Bell G, Anyalechi G, Schenck AP. Facilitating Cross-Sector Connections: Implementation Research on an Innovative Model for Student-Community Partnership to Improve Health. Poster presented at Society for Public Health Education 67th Annual Meeting; March 2016; Charlotte, NC.

View a complete list of our presentations and publications:

Publications: July 2016-June 2017 | July 2015-June 2016 | 2012-2015

Presentations: July 2016-June 2017 | July 2015-June 2016 | 2012-2015


Rachel Wilfert, MD, MPH, CPH
Workforce and Training Director, North Carolina Institute for Public Health