Deborah John

Academic interests

Not accepting PhD students Accepting MS students

My research integrates psychosocial and behavioral kinesiology with environmental public health sciences, particularly studying healthy lifestyle behaviors and health equity in diverse populations in relationship to place-based contexts where they live and age. My academic and scholarly efforts focus on physical activity and healthy lifestyle disparities in demographically diverse populations, such as older adults, rural, and Indigenous peoples of America, as socio-environmentally determined by inequality in access to resources and exposure to risks. I employ mixed methods design, community-engaged participatory research (PR) approaches, and develop PR tools, to examine how attributes of people interact with attributes of place across social ecological levels to explain differences in lifestyle behaviors, health outcomes, and health equity in and among groups.


Deborah is core faculty in the College’s Kinesiology program and has a majority appointment in Public Health and Human Sciences Extension Family and Community Health (FCH). She serves as the Extension FCH state specialist for Health Equity and Place. Her participatory research engages communities and focuses on the interplay of attributes of people with attributes of place to influence lifestyle behaviors, health outcomes, and health equity. She has directed these efforts toward rural populations/subpopulations, such as children, low-income families, women, racial/ethnic groups, and older adults, and household, school, worksite, rural, Native American/American Indian tribal and reservation community contexts.

Deborah served as the principal investigator (with Kathy Gunter) on a USDA NIFA funded, multiyear (2011-2017), multistate integrated research, education and Extension project to understand the effects of rural community and school contexts on family and child dietary and physical activity behaviors and behavioral patterns, and environmental factors that contribute obesity risk in rural children. She also served as senior personnel leading the internal evaluation for the NSF-funded Oregon State ADVANCE program (2014-19) to catalyze academic workplace equity, inclusion, and social justice for women and under-represented minorities in STEM.