JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. (JSI) operates the New York State Obesity Prevention Center for Excellence (OPCE). For 35 years, JSI staff have embraced the mission to improve the health of underserved people and communities by providing high-quality technical and managerial assistance to public health programs across the nation. JSI is deeply committed to building healthy communities, having managed over 50 projects with this mission. In partnership with government agencies, the private sector, and local nonprofit and civil society organizations, JSI works to improve quality and achieve sustainable change in communities and health systems. Learn more about the services OPCE provides to the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities (CHSC) grantees.
Tamara Vehige Calise
Senior Director, Healthy Communities
Tamara Vehige Calise, DrPH, is the director of OPCE. She has nearly 20 years of public health experience at the local, state, and federal government levels, as well as in academia. Dr. Calise’s interests are in creating healthy communities specifically related to obesity and chronic disease prevention, as well as eliminating health disparities across these outcomes. Her experience includes conducting research and evaluations to better understand how policies, environments, and systems influence behaviors like physical activity and eating. She has experience in conducting mixed methods evaluations that include quantitative and qualitative data and track the reach, adoption, implementation, and effectiveness of complex interventions. Dr. Calise has also successfully worked with state and local agencies to incorporate evidence-based strategies, ensuring that physical and social systems continue to support healthy behaviors.
Dr. Calise served as the Project Director/Lead Evaluator on a number of initiatives, including the Missouri Foundation for Health Healthy Schools Healthy Communities Project, a Community Transformation Grant/Mass In Motion Initiative MetroWest Moves in Hudson MA, the Ozarks Regional Food Policy Council in Missouri, and the Health Trust Food Access Needs Assessment for Vulnerable Populations in San Jose, CA, among many others.
As a way to enhance both evaluation and implementation of healthy communities strategies, Dr. Calise has become increasingly involved in developing information exchange and systems integration. Through web-based platforms, she helps to ensure partners from across geographic areas and organizations have opportunities to collect and compile data, share information, leverage resources, and document and enhance their collective impact. Dr. Calise received her DrPH in social and behavioral sciences from Boston University, and her MEd in health education and BS in human nutrition and physical fitness from the University of Missouri.
Consultant, Healthy Communities
Amanda Ryder, MS, is the TA lead for half of the Capital, Central, and Western grantees. Ms. Ryder has over eight years of experience providing training and technical assistance to support implementation and evaluation of public health initiatives. Her interests and expertise are in chronic disease prevention and health promotion, particularly initiatives targeting policy, systems, and environmental change to increase access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Ms. Ryder has worked with a variety of organizations and is skilled at facilitating multi-sector collaborative efforts and engaging non-traditional partners to support healthy communities. She served as a Coordinator for the Community Transformation Grant/Mass In Motion Initiative MetroWest Moves. She also served as evaluator for a number of initiatives, including the Missouri Foundation for Health Healthy Schools Healthy Communities Project, the Greater Rochester Health Foundation Childhood Healthy Weight Initiative, the Ozarks Regional Food Policy Council in Missouri, and the Rhode Island Department of Health Initiative for a Healthy Weight. Ms. Ryder holds her MS in public health from Harvard University and her BA in psychology from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Consultant, Healthy Communities
Katie DeAngelis, MPH, is a TA Lead. Ms. DeAngelis joined JSI in 2013 and works as a Healthy Communities Consultant. Her interests include promoting physical activity, increasing access to healthy foods, and implementing policy and environmental change initiatives to build healthy communities. As a TA Lead, Ms. DeAngelis supports Creating Healthy Schools and Communities grantees in their efforts to make New York a healthier place to live. She is certified as a Fitwel Ambassador and works with workplaces to establish healthier environments where employees thrive. She has also worked on evaluations of healthy communities initiatives, including an evaluation of a SNAP-Education initiative in Santa Clara County, CA. Prior to JSI, she worked with the Rhode Island Department of Health evaluating tools to support schools in offering healthier competitive foods, and with the Healthy New Hampshire Foundation to evaluate a Healthy Eating, Active Living initiative. She has previously also served as a nutrition educator at the Rhode Island Free Clinic. Ms. DeAngelis holds both her MPH and BA in community health from Brown University.
Consultant, Healthy Communities
Laura Ruggiero, MPH, is the TA lead for half of the Capital, Central, and Western grantees. Ms. Ruggiero’s interests and expertise are in healthy communities including social determinants and policy, system, and environmental changes for improving healthy eating and physical activity. Ms. Ruggiero’s experience includes program monitoring and evaluation, project management, technical assistance, qualitative and quantitative data collection, data management, and reporting. Since joining JSI in 2016, Ms. Ruggiero has served as project manager for the evaluations of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ Healthy Eating Active Living initiative, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance’s Healthy Incentives Program, the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts’ Worcester Regional Food Hub, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s 1305 and 1422 Social Network Analysis project, among others. Ms. Ruggiero holds an MPH in social and behavioral sciences and a BA in sociology from Boston University.
Leanna Ehrlich provides support to OPCE. Ms. Ehrlich joined JSI in 2015. Previously, she worked with Global Brigades in Nicaragua, helping college groups plan volunteer trips to Central America. Ms. Ehrlich holds her BA in human evolutionary biology from Harvard University.
OPCE Partner Organizations
JSI is fortunate to be joined by four organizations that bring significant experience in policy and environmental changes that support physical activity and healthy eating:
Action for Healthy Kids fights childhood obesity, undernourishment, and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives. They partner with volunteers, including teachers, students, parents, and school wellness experts to create healthful school changes. Their grassroots efforts are supported by a collaboration of more than 75 organizations, corporations, and government agencies. Working together, they give kids the keys to health and academic success by meeting them where they are – in the classroom, in the cafeteria, and on the playground – with fun physical activity and nutrition lessons and changes that make it possible for them to eat nutritiously and play actively every day.
Alliance for a Healthier Generation (the Alliance), founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, aims to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and empower children to develop lifelong, healthy habits. The Alliance guides schools, companies, community organizations, health care professionals, and families to build healthier environments for more than 20 million children, with a focus on low-income and minority populations. The Alliance’s team of national school health experts provide high-quality technical assistance, professional development, tools, and resources, both in-person (onsite) and online, to schools throughout the U.S.
PedNet, a nonprofit organization, promotes healthy living through healthy eating and active transportation initiatives that engage and connect diverse community stakeholders to foster a collaborative effort. PedNet has experience in coaching communities to increase their capacity for implementing healthy eating and active living strategies; it routinely delivers technical assistance in collaboration building and action plan development in many communities across the country. Since the establishment of its consulting arm in 2010, PedNet has worked in 29 states in both rural and urban communities.
The Food Trust works to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions. The Food Trust’s comprehensive approach includes improving food environments and teaching nutrition education in schools; working with corner store owners to increase healthy offerings and helping customers make healthier choices; managing farmers markets in communities that lack access to affordable produce; and encouraging grocery store development in underserved communities.