Monica Wang, assistant professor of community health sciences, has been named one of the 2018 Ten Outstanding Young Leaders (TOYL) by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The honors are presented annually by City Awake, a program of the chamber that connects and celebrates the next generation of leaders.
The awards highlight the contributions of young leaders who have demonstrated “professional, personal, and civic commitment to improving the quality of life” in the Greater Boston area. Wang and the other honorees were recognized on October 25 at Laugh Boston, where they shared their visions and their work.
“I am thrilled to be recognized along with the other honorees as emerging leaders for our commitment to improving the quality of life in the Greater Boston region,” Wang says. “This award has personal meaning due to my local roots and professional meaning because public health is not always represented in awards such as these. When we invest in the health of our communities, we ultimately strengthen the economic, social, and cultural fabric of our society.”
Wang’s research targets disparities in childhood obesity and chronic disease management through cross-sector collaborations with community organizations, public media entities, and local policymakers. She has studied racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in obesity and chronic diseases as well as the design, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of culturally tailored programs and policies that promote healthy eating and physical activity among underserved children and families.
Wang focuses much of her research on sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. She is the principal investigator on a K-01 award from the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage purchase and consumption among children and families. She has conducted community-based research to reduce sugary drink intake among low-income Boys & Girls Club members, and collaborated with Senator Jason Lewis to advance sugary drink legislation in Massachusetts. Wang has also partnered with WGBH to pilot-test a mobile diabetes educational tool targeting pediatric diabetes.
“As a busing student through the METCO program from elementary through high school, I experienced first-hand how neighborhood inequities differentially shaped communities’ diets and rates of obesity and diabetes depending on zip code,” Wang says. “This experience profoundly shaped my career focus to develop and disseminate programs and policies that promote healthy eating and improve our food environment, particularly for underserved children and families.”
Wang has served as an evaluation consultant for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce revived the TOYL awards in 2012, after the Boston Jaycees presented them from 1952 to 2006. More than 500 young leaders have since been honored, including President John F. Kennedy and community advocate and United Nations representative Carol Fulp.