A photo of Jessica Woo.

Jessica G. Woo, MHSA, PhD

  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
  • UC Department of Environmental Health



As an epidemiologist, my research is related to childhood obesity and nutrition and their long-term impact on cardiometabolic health into adulthood. I am also interested in early-life exposures occurring during pregnancy and breastfeeding that may help establish developmental trajectories into childhood and beyond. I have significant expertise in how children develop relative to growth charting. My goal is to understand whether there are critical periods in early life or key aspects of developmental exposures that may prevent future obesity and cardiometabolic diseases.

My early research focused on infancy and the role of breastfeeding and human milk composition in modulating obesity risk. This work used a set of parallel international cohorts recruited in Cincinnati, Mexico City and Shanghai. I evaluated the role of human milk adiponectin in infant growth while considering complementary feeding timing and diversity of foods in this relationship.

My groundbreaking work has centered on the use of growth charts to evaluate infant obesity and identify critical time periods for the development of early-onset severe obesity. In 2009, I identified that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) body mass index (BMI) z-scores, used widely in clinical and research applications, have a critical flaw. In particular, because of how they were developed, CDC BMI z-scores do not effectively differentiate the weight status of children and adolescents with severe obesity. This topic was the focus of a National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) workshop that aimed to propose alternative metrics for effectively assessing adiposity status at the high end of the distribution. This work has resulted in several manuscript publications and altered recommendations for the use of CDC growth charts.

Traditionally, there has not been a definition of obesity for children under the age of two and a hesitancy to identify infants as obese. My studies have identified that children who develop severe early-onset (prior to age 6) obesity have a significantly different BMI trajectory in infancy that is identifiable as early as six months of age. Infants at or above the 85th percentile on the World Health Organization (WHO) BMI growth charts have a 50 percent risk of being overweight or obese by age six, compared with just 11 percent of those below this threshold.

My ongoing research focuses on the follow-up of several large-scale epidemiologic cohorts, which recruited children in the 1970s and 1980s, following them into mid-adulthood. Study assessments include cardiometabolic risk factors, adiposity, diet, cardiovascular disease and death. This life-course view of the impact of childhood risk factors on adult disease has demonstrated that the risk of adult disease arises from even modest elevations in childhood risk factors that can help direct early prevention efforts. This work is conducted in collaboration with the International Childhood Cardiovascular Cohorts (i3C) Consortium.

I’ve been honored to receive the following awards and honors:

  • 1992 Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society
  • 1993 Phi Beta Kappa
  • 1993 Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society
  • 1993 Golden Key National Honor Society
  • 1993 Merrill Presidential Scholar, Cornell University
  • 2003 Chrysalis Travel Grant for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) meeting
  • 2004 Outstanding Poster Presentation, University of Cincinnati Graduate Research Forum
  • 2005 to present, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society
  • 2010 to present, Who’s Who in America
  • 2016 to present, Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA)
  • 2019 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award (Marquis Who’s Who)

BA: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1993.

MHSA: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1995.

PhD: University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, 2004.


Early life influences on the development of pediatric obesity; severe obesity in childhood; breastfeeding and complementary food; life-course epidemiology of obesity and cardiometabolic disease; dyslipidemia and insulin resistance; nutritional epidemiology

Research Areas

Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Heart


Childhood Non-HDL Cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol and Adult Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Events. Wu, F; Juonala, M; Jacobs, DR; Daniels, SR; Kähönen, M; Woo, JG; Sinaiko, AR; Viikari, JS A; Bazzano, LA; Burns, TL; et al. Circulation. 2024; 149:217-226.

Thermoneutral Housing Enables Studies of Vertical Transmission of Obesogenic Diet-Driven Metabolic Diseases. Wayland, JL; Doll, JR; Lawson, MJ; Stankiewicz, TE; Oates, JR; Sawada, K; Damen, MS M A; Alarcon, PC; Haslam, DB; Trout, AT; et al. Nutrients. 2023; 15:4958.

Lipoprotein subfraction patterns throughout gestation in The Gambia: changes in subfraction composition and their relationships with infant birth weights. Woo, JG; Melchior, JT; Swertfeger, DK; Remaley, AT; Sise, EA; Sosseh, F; Welge, JA; Prentice, AM; Davidson, WS; Moore, SE; et al. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2023; 22:19.

Abstract 16730: Neighborhood Deprivation and Left Ventricular Mass in Women, NGHS Longitudinal Cohort Analysis. Baker-Smith, CM; Woo, JG; Urbina, EM. Circulation. 2023; 148.

Abstract 12866: Increased Left Ventricular Mass Has Greater Association With Fat Free Mass Than Fat Mass in Black and White Females. Sill, J; Woo, JG; Urbina, EM. Circulation. 2023; 148.

Timing and Magnitude of Peak Body Mass Index and Peak Weight Velocity in Infancy Predict Body Mass Index at 2 Years in a Retrospective Cohort of Electronic Health Record Data. Wood, CT; Truong, T; Skinner, AC; Armstrong, SC; Perrin, EM; Woo, JG; Green, CL. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2023; 257:113356.

Infant Obesity Prevention Programs for Underrepresented Mothers in a Home Visiting Program: A Qualitative and Community-Engaged Needs Assessment. Stough, CO; Rabin, J; Gates, T; Garr, K; Combs, A; Edwards, ZT; Summer, SS; Woo, JG; Folger, AT; Ammerman, RT; et al. 2023; 2752535X231176730.

Lipoprotein(a) in Youth and Prediction of Major Cardiovascular Outcomes in Adulthood. Raitakari, O; Kartiosuo, N; Pahkala, K; Hutri-Kähönen, N; Bazzano, LA; Chen, W; Urbina, EM; Jacobs, DR; Sinaiko, A; Steinberger, J; et al. Circulation. 2023; 147:23-31.

Longitudinal Changes in Various BMI Metrics and Adiposity in 3- to 7-Year-Olds. Freedman, DS; Woo, JG; Daniels, SR. Pediatrics. 2022; 150:e2022058302.

The Longitudinal Relation between Infant Feeding Styles and Growth Trajectories among Families from Low-Income Households. Khalsa, AS; Copeland, KA; Kharofa, RY; Geraghty, SR; Dewitt, TG; Woo, JG. The Journal of nutrition. 2022; 152:2015-2022.

From the Blog

How Childhood Risk Factors Affect Adult Cardiovascular Events
Heart and Lung

How Childhood Risk Factors Affect Adult Cardiovascular Events

Jessica Graus Woo, MHSA, PhD4/6/2022

Predicting Adult Type 2 Diabetes from Childhood Body Mass Index, Fasting Glucose, and Insulin
Diabetes and Obesity

Predicting Adult Type 2 Diabetes from Childhood Body Mass Index, Fasting Glucose, and Insulin

Jessica Graus Woo, MHSA, PhD11/18/2020

Diet Quality Trajectories in Early Childhood Reveal Targets for Improvement
Diabetes and Obesity

Diet Quality Trajectories in Early Childhood Reveal Targets for Improvement

Jessica Graus Woo, MHSA, PhD10/30/2020