Health Transitions in Immigrant Families Initiative

Project Overview

Today, 13 percent of the U.S. population is foreign born, and nearly a quarter of children are growing up in families with at least one foreign-born parent. In some ethnic groups, the proportion is higher. For example, 60 percent of Latino children are in immigrant families—many of whom are living in non-metropolitan communities like Central Illinois. Immigration results in multiple changes as families adapt to life in their new environment. One set of changes involve dietary patterns and family routines related to mealtimes and physical activity. These changes likely contribute to the widely documented worsening of immigrants’ health with time in the United States and across immigrant generations. Understanding the complex and interconnected causes underlying health disparities among immigrants (and subsequent generations), and identifying strategies to promote health in this population, are major public health priorities. This project is fostering collaborations leading to new research and outreach projects focused on immigrant health transitions with special emphasis on changes in nutrition and physical activity. Activities will include bringing together faculty from across campus to explore areas of overlap and synergy, forming project teams focused on specific topics, and supporting pilot activities by project teams. The ultimate goal is to obtain external funding for projects that address issues of health disparities in immigrant populations. The impact of the project will include the creation of new transdisciplinary collaborations; the generation of products resulting from pilot activities, such as new datasets, bibliographies, and publications; and the submission of grant proposals to external funding agencies for research and outreach activities that will positively impact research and intervention aimed at immigrant families.

Research Team

Marcela Raffaelli, PhD, Professor, Human Development and Family Studies

Funding Partners

This project was funded by the Christopher Family Foundation Food and Family Program.


Marcela Raffaelli
Principal Investigator
Phone: 217-244-5017