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 Capital, Central, and Western grantees. Ryder has over eight years of experience providing training and technical assistance to support implementation and evaluation of public health initiatives. Ms. Ryder’s 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 the TA lead for New York City and MARO grantees. Ms. DeAngelis’s interests include policy and environmental change initiatives that support healthy communities and is particularly interested in making healthy eating choices the easiest ones. Ms. DeAngelis joined JSI in 2013, and has since focused on evaluation projects, leading the evaluation of two national capacity building centers that support family planning centers and Healthy Start grantees, and contributing to 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 implement healthier competitive foods, and with the Healthy New Hampshire Foundation to evaluate a Healthy Eating, Active Living initiative aimed at strengthening community coalitions to make policy and environmental changes for obesity prevention. She has 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.
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:
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.
Sasaki Associates, Inc. (Sasaki) is an international practice with expertise in architecture, interior design, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, graphic design, and civil engineering, as well as financial planning and software development. Sasaki projects demand collaboration between these disciplines, and many completed projects have been recognized nationally (and internationally) for professional excellence. Practitioners from diverse backgrounds come together to create unique, contextual, enduring solutions. Sasaki has embraced the healthy concept and has worked with communities across the country to create spaces that encourage healthy living. Work has included revising parks and open space master plans as well as developing complete streets policies.
University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Pediatrics (URMC) is a nationally respected center for research, teaching, patient care, and community service. Its mission includes providing excellence in the four pillars—clinical care, research, education, and community—of health. URMC embraces the learning collaborative methodology and has been instrumental in quality improvement projects nationwide. Moreover, the department has collaborated with various regional healthy policy coalitions and has been a major contributor to regional prevalence studies that address the obesity epidemic in communities.