Shiriki Kumanyika

Updated:Mar 21,2011

Shiriki Kumanyika, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Shiriki KummanyikaPhiladelphia scientist honored for studies on role of diet in reducing heart disease risk

Shiriki Kumanyika, Ph.D., M.P.H., a professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has won the first-ever American Heart Association Population Research Prize. She received the prestigious national distinction for her  tireless efforts in a career devoted to elucidating the role of diet modifications in preventing heart disease, stroke and related disorders.

Kumanyika, who is the associate dean for health promotion and disease prevention at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has trained a generation of scientists and devoted her life to the prevention of heart disease and stroke. Her research focuses on the role of nutritional factors in the primary and secondary prevention of chronic diseases, with a particular focus on obesity, sodium reduction and related health problems such as hypertension and diabetes.

She has been the principal investigator or co-investigator of major randomized clinical trials of dietary changes in modifying cardiovascular risk factors. Her studies involve developing and evaluating culturally appropriate interventions to prevent or treat obesity among African Americans in clinical or community settings.

"I see the creation of this (AHA Population Research) prize as both a coming of age and a challenge for population-oriented research to fight heart disease and stroke," Kumanyika said. "This award is a coming of age because it puts an ultimate finishing touch on the AHA's commitment to see population science as a critical dimension in the bigger picture of cardiovascular research. It is a challenge because of the bigger picture. Population research addresses the impossible to control, difficult to modify, socially fluctuating and all too political reality that determines: who develops heart disease and stroke; whose risks are identified early versus late; who is treated; and who is ultimately able to achieve the potential for longevity and high quality of life."

Kumanyika said disparities in cardiovascular disease are "so vivid and so longstanding that, we know, unfortunately, almost without having to count, that African Americans for example, or people with low incomes, will have more heart disease and stroke and be more likely to die from it. I look forward to the day when the recipient of this award can say that we have remedied this situation."

Kumanyika has a unique interdisciplinary background that integrates epidemiology, nutrition, prevention, minority health, aging and women's health issues. A native of Baltimore, Md., she holds a B.A. from Syracuse University, master of science in social work from Columbia University, Ph.D. in human nutrition from Cornell University and master of public health from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.

She has served the American Heart Association in many roles over the last two decades, including as a spokesperson on diet and related health issues, as chair of the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and as a member of the national Board of Directors.