Dawn Contreras, PhD
Dawn Contreras, Ph.D. is a Senior Extension Specialist with the MSU Extension Health and Nutrition Institute. She is currently the PI or Co-PI on seven health grants including projects related to substance misuse prevention among older adults, sleep interventions, caregiver self-care, falls prevention education, rural health and resiliency, and immunizations. She is a primary author/co-author on 34 articles published in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Contreras started her career with MSU Extension in 1981 as an Extension Home Economist; serving in Sanilac and Tuscola Counties from 1981 to 1984 and in Clinton County from 1984 to 1994. In 1994 Dawn took a position on campus as a Program Leader within Children, Youth, and Family Programs and became an adjunct faculty member for the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. By 2009 Dawn had received senior status and became a Senior Specialist within the unit. Between 2010 and 2018 Dr. Contreras served as Director of the Health and Nutrition Institute. All three of Dawn’s degrees are from Michigan State University. Her most recent degree was a Ph.D. earned in 2000 from the Department of Family and Child Ecology. She is also a 2014 graduate of the MSU Program in Public Health certificate program.
Doctor of Philosophy, Family and Child Ecology, Michigan State University
Master of Science, Family Studies, Michigan State University
Bachelor of Science, Home Economics Education, Michigan State University
PUBLICATIONS - Peer-reviewed
Becker, T. B, Contreras, D. & Porth, O. (2021). Differences in Eating and Physical Activity Behaviors, and Perceived Accessibility and Availability Barriers between Midwestern Rural and Urban Adults, Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/19320248.2021.1930318
Tucker RM, Contreras DA, Carlson BR, Carter A, Drake CL. (2021). Sleep Education for Elders Program (SLEEP): Promising Pilot Results of a Virtual, Health Educator-Led, Community-Delivered Sleep Behavior Change Intervention. Nature and Science of Sleep.
Contreras, D., & Anderson, L. (2020). Approach to establishing an infrastructure for delivering third-party-reimbursable community-based health education. Journal of Extension 58(3), Article v58-3tt4. Available at: https://www.joe.org/joe/2020june/tt4.php
Contreras, D., Martoccio, T. L., Brophy-Herb, H.E., Horodynski, M., Peterson, K.E., Miller, A.L., Senehi, N, Sturza, J., Kaciroti, N., Lumeng, J.C. (2020). Rural–urban differences in body mass index and obesity-related behaviors among low-income preschoolers, Journal of Public Health, fdaa162, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdaa162
Khan, T., Eschbach, C., Cuthbertson, C., Newkirk, C., Contreras, D., & Kirley, K. (2020). Connecting primary care to community-based education: Michigan physicians’ familiarity with Extension programs. Health Promotion and Practice, 21(2). 175-180. DOI: 10.1177/1524839919868980
Martoccio, T., Senehi, N., Brophy-Herb, H., Miller, A., Horodynski, M., Kaciroti, N., Contreras, D., Peterson, K., & Lumeng, J. (2020). Cross-lagged associations between behaviour problems and obesity in head start preschoolers. Pediatric Obesity, 15(7), DOI:
Torres, C., Brophy-Herb, H.E., McCaffery, H., Struza, J., Williams, J.M., Choi, H.H., Horodynski, M.A., Contreras, D., Kerver, J., Kaciroti, N., Lumeng, J.C. (2020). Maternal mindfulness is associated with lower child body mass index z score. Academic Pediatrics, ISSN 1876-2859, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2020.06.012
Brophy-Herb, H., Miller, A,. Martoccio, T, Horodynski, M., Senehi, N., Contreras, D., Peterson, K., Dalimonte-Merckling, D., Favreau, Z., Sturza, J., Kaciroti, N., & Lumeng, J. (2019). Do child gender and temperament moderate associations between Head Start classroom social-emotional climate and children’s social-emotional competencies? Early Childhood Research Quarterly 47(2). 518-530. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.07.001
Rockler, B., Procter, S., Contreras, D., Gold, A., Keim, A., Mobley, A., Oscarson, R., Peters, P., Remig, V., & Smathers, C. (2019). Communities partnering with researchers: An evaluation of coalition function in a community-engaged research approach. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education and Action, 13(1). 105-114. DOI: https://www.joe.org/joe/2020june/tt4.php
Horodynski MA, Brophy-Herb HE, Martoccio TL, Contreras D, Peterson K, Shattuck M, Senehi N,
Favreau Z, Miller AL, Sturza J et al. (2018). Familial psychosocial risk classes and preschooler body mass index: The moderating effect of caregiver feeding style. Appetite 123:216-224.
Brophy-Herb HE, Horodynski M, Kerver JM, Contreras D, Van Egeren LA, Kaciroti N, Hebert S, Prine
E, Williams J, Gardiner C et al. (2018). NP18 - Family Mealtime Supports for Obesity Prevention in Head Start Preschoolers: Initial Results From the Simply Dinner Study. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 2018, 50(7):S114-S115.
Gold AL, Bennett K, Jansen RJ, Mobley AR, Procter SB, Smathers C, Contreras D, Peters P, Keim A,
Oscarson R: Ripple Effects of the Communities Preventing Childhood Obesity Project. (2018). Health promotion practice doi: 1524839918788581.
Brophy-Herb, H., Horodynski, M., Contreras, D., Kerver, J., Kaciroti, N., Stein, M., Lee, H., Motz, B.,
Hebert, S., Prine, E., Gardiner, C., Van Egeren, L., & Lumeng, J. (2017). Effectiveness of Differing Levels of Support for Family Mealtimes on Obesity Prevention among Head Start Preschoolers: The Simply Dinner Study. BMC Public Health, 17, 184-195.
Lumeng JC, Miller AL, Horodynski MA, Brophy-Herb HE, Contreras D, Lee H, Sturza J, Kaciroti N,
Peterson KE. (2017). Improving Self-Regulation for Obesity Prevention in Head Start: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics 139(5):e20162047.
Dwyer JW, Contreras D, Eschbach C, Tiret H, Newkirk C, Carter E, Cronk L. (2017). Cooperative
Extension as a Framework for Health Extension: The Michigan State University Model. Acad Med. Published online ahead of print March 28, 2017. doi: 10.1097/ ACM.0000000000001640.
Avila B., Contreras D., Mobley A R., Peters P. (2017) “Are Parental Rules Associated with Low-Income
Rural Children’s Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables?” Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 12(4), 544-553.
Wright B, McCormack L, Stluka S, Contreras D, Franzen-Castle L, Henne B, Mehrle D, Remley D,
Eicher-Miller H. (2017). Pantry Use Predicts Food Security Among Rural, Midwestern Emergency Food Pantry Users. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 49(7):S16-S17.
Brophy-Herb HE, Horodynski M, Contreras D, Kerver J, Kaciroti N, Stein M, Lee HJ, Motz B, Hebert
S, Prine E et al. (2017). Effectiveness of differing levels of support for family meals on obesity prevention among head start preschoolers: the simply dinner study. BMC Public Health 17(1):1-11.
Peters P, Mobley A, Procter S, Smathers C, Contreras D, Gold A, Oscarson R, Keim A. (2017).
Mobilizing Rural Low-Income Communities to Assess and Improve the Ecological Environment to Prevent Childhood Obesity. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 49(7):S117-S117.
Brophy-Herb HE, Horodynski M, Contreras D, Kerver J, Kaciroti N, Stein M, McClain E, McClintic L,
Lee HJ, Hebert S et al. (2017). Effectiveness of Supports for Family Mealtimes on Obesity Prevention Among Head Start Preschoolers: The Simply Dinner Study. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 49(7):S111-S111.
Contreras, D., Avila, B., Lobb, J., Oscarson, R., Smathers, C. (2016). Coalition Readiness for Preventing
Childhood Obesity. In Best Practices Tool Kit. Ohio State University.
Peters, P, Gold, A, Abbott, A., Contreras, D., Keim, A., Oscarson, R., Proctor, S., Remig, V., Smathers,
C., & Mobley, A.R. (2016). A quasi-experimental study to mobilize rural low-income communities to assess and improve the ecological environment to prevent childhood obesity. BMC Public Health, 16:376. DOI 10.1186/s12889-016-3047-4.
Buro, B., Gold, A., Contreras, D., Keim, A., Mobley, A.R., Oscarson, R., Peters, P., Procter, S. (2015)
An Ecological Approach to Exploring Rural Food Access and Active Living for Families with Preschoolers. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 47(6), 2015, 548-554.e.1.
Foster J.S., Contreras D., Gold A., Keim A., Oscarson R., Peters P., Procter S., Remig V., Smathers C.,
Mobley A.R. (2015). “Evaluation of Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies and Practices in Childcare Centers within Rural Communities.” Childhood Obesity, October 2015, 11(5): 506-512.
Hersey, J.C., Cates., S.C., Blitstein, J.L., Kosa, K.M., Santiago-Rivera, O., Contreras, D.A., Long, V.A.,
Singh, A., (2015) “Eat Smart, Live Strong Intervention Increases Fruit and Vegetable Consumption among Low-Income Older Adults.” Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics, pg. 66-80.
Lumeng, J., Miller, A., Brophy-Herb, H., Horodynski, M., Contreras, D., Peterson, K. (2015).
“Enhancing Self-Regulation as a Strategy for Obesity Prevention in Head Start Preschoolers.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 47, Issue 4, S100.
Peters, P, Mobley, A.R, Procter, S, Contreras, D, Gold, A.L, Smathers, C, Oscarson, R, Keim, A. (2015)
“Mobilizing Rural Low-Income Communities to Assess and Improve the Ecological Environment to Prevent Childhood Obesity.” [Abstract] Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2015 47(4) S104.
Peters, P., Mobley, A. R., Procter, S. Contreras, D., Gold, A. L., Smathers, C., Oscarson, R., & Keim. A.
(2014). “Mobilizing Rural Low-income Communities to Assess and Improve the Ecological Environment to Prevent Childhood Obesity.” [Abstract] Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 46 (4S) 2014. S197.
Santiago, O., Contreras, D., Earnesty, D., True, L., Danto, S. (2014). “Training Program Tailored for
Instructors of Eat Smart, Live Strong Nutrition Education Program for Older Adults.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 46, Issue 4, S118
Smith J.S., Contreras D., Gold A., Keim A., Oscarson R., Peters P., Procter S., Remig V., Smathers C.,
Mobley A.R. (2014). “What Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies and Practices are Most Lacking in Early Childhood Centers within Rural Communities?” [Abstract] Federation for American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal. April 28, 2014: 808.20.
Santiago, O., Contreras, D., Earnesty, D., Hebert, S., Lashore, M., Swartzendruber, K., Avila, B., (2013).
“Effectiveness of a Healthy Weight Nutrition Education Program for Low-income Clientele” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 45, Issue 4, S55.
Miller A.L., Horodynski, M. A., Brophy Herb, H.E., Peterson1, K.E., Contreras, D., Kaciroti, N., Staples-
Watson, J., Lumeng, J.C. (2012). “Enhancing self-regulation as a strategy for obesity prevention in Head Start preschoolers: The growing healthy study.” Open Science.
Contreras D. (2008)). Breaking the bonds of isolation: Can home-based education increase social support levels? Journal of Extension.
Contreras, D. (2007). Building strong adolescents: An assets-based parent education program. Research. Journal of Extension Family and Consumer Sciences (The Reporter.)
Contreras, D. (2005). The Influence of a paraprofessional, home-visitation program on
parenting behaviors. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 10 (2).
Coleman G, Horodynski MA, Contreras D, Hoerr SM. (2005). Nutrition Education Aimed at Toddlers
(NEAT) Curriculum. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 37(2):96-97.
Kurtz, M., Kurtz, J., Contreras, D. (2004). Reducing low-income women and children's exposure to
Environmental tobacco smoke – a pilot project. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 9, 3.
Shirer, K., Adler-Baeder, F., Contreras, D., Spicer, J. (2004) Preparing unmarried
new parents to make healthy decisions about marriage, father involvement and family formation. Vision 2014: What is the Future of Marriage? Minneapolis, MN: National Council on Family Relations. Environmental tobacco smoke – a pilot project. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 9, 3.
Koger, D., Spicer, J., Contreras, D. (2002). Building strong families: An intervention that works.
Family Focus, June, F9-F10.
Kurtz ME, Kurtz JC, Contreras D, Booth C. (2003). Knowledge and attitudes of economically
disadvantaged women regarding exposure to environmental tobacco smoke: a Michigan, USA study. European journal of public health 13(2):171-176.
Gonik B, Jones T, Fasano N, Contreras D, Roberts C. (2001). 300 Vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD):
Improving the obstetrician/gynecologist's knowledge and immunization practice patterns. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 185(6):S162-S162.
Gonik B, Jones T, Contreras D, Fasano N, Roberts C. (2001). The Obstetrician-Gynecologist’s Role in
Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization. Obstetric and Gynecologic Survey 2001, 56(1):21-22.
Gonik B, Jones T, Contreras D, Fasano N, Roberts C. (2000). The Obstetrician-Gynecologist’s Role in
Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization. Obstetric and Gynecologic, 96(1):81-84.
CHAPTERS IN AN EDITED BOOK
Kurtz, M., Contreras, D., and Kutz, J. (2007). Effectiveness of an educational
intervention on exposure to environmental tobacco smoke for low income parents: In F. Columbus (Ed.), Passive smoke and health research. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
Contreras, D. (2000). The Influence of a Paraprofessional, Home Visitation Parent Education Program
On the Social Support and Parenting Behaviors of Limited Income Parents. Unpublished doctoral dissertation.
Contreras, D. (1998). A study of job obtainments and future employment status of Michigan State
University Extension Paraprofessional Staff.
Shirer, K., Contreras, D. (2007). Together We Can: Creating a Healthy Future for our Family. An
evidence-based co-parenting curriculum. Curriculum. Michigan State University Extension.
Contreras D. (2003). Don’t Croak on Secondhand Smoke. A passive smoke education curriculum for
parents and caregivers of young children. Michigan State University Extension.
Shirer K., Contreras D., Harden M., and Spicer J. (2002). Caring for My Family. A father involvement
and enhancing family formation curriculum for low-income parents of newborn children.
Michigan State University Extension.
Dunn, R., Contreras, D. (2000). Immunization is Basic. A 24-page flip chart designed to promote
immunizations. Michigan State University Extension.
Contreras, D. (1998). Community Action Workbook/Immunization Education Kit. Michigan State
Contreras, D. (1995). Immunization Train. A goal-setting tool to assist parents in getting timely
Immunizations for their children. Michigan State University Extension.
Contreras, D. (1995). Parent-Child Interaction Guide. Michigan State University Extension.
Contreras, D. (1994). Building Strong Families Supplemental Activities, Michigan State University
RECENT GRANTS & AWARDS
Tobe (PI), Eschbach (Co-PI), Contreras (Co-PI) - 2021-2024; Michigan Department of Community Health: Improving and Expanding Educational Messaging Around Vaccination with Michigan’s Youth and Families Through Trusted Messengers and MSU Extension Network, This grant provides Covid-19 and other immunization education to youth and families across Michigan.
Contreras (PI), Kennedy, Eschbach, Arnetz, Goetz (Co-PIs) - 2020-2023; USDA NIFA: Addressing Rural Opioid Misuse in Michigan Through Evidence-Based Health Education, Telehealth, Distance Learning, and Coalitions; This grant seeks to reduce opioid misuse among Michigan rural residents.
Contreras (PI) - 2018-2021; DHHS-Administration for Community Living; Title: Increasing Falls Prevention Education in Michigan's Upper Peninsula; This grant offers evidence-based falls prevention courses to older adults and adults with disabilities.
Contreras (PI) - 2020-2021; Michigan Health Endowment Fund; Title: Caregiver Resource Collaborative; This planning grant will establish a partner network to provide in-person and virtual self-care and wellness resources to caregivers of individuals with dementia.
Tucker (PI; Contreras (Co-PI) - 2020-2021; Michigan Health Endowment Fund;
Title: Sleep Education for Elders Program; This grant will create and pilot-test an intervention to help increase the quantity and quality of sleep for older adults.
Contreras (PI) - 2018-2020; Michigan Department of Community Health: Evidence-Based Preventive Opioid Use Disorder Intervention among Michigan's Older Adults; This grant provides substance abuse prevention and chronic pain self-management education to older adults across Michigan.
Contreras (PI); Ilardo (Co-PI) - 2018-2020; Michigan Health Endowment Fund; Title: THRIVE Network: Educating Dementia Caregivers on Wellness and Self-Care; This grant provides in-person and virtual self-care and wellness resources to caregivers of individuals with dementia.
Brophy-Herb (PI); Contreras (Co-PI) - 2015-2020; USDA – Effectiveness of Differing Levels of Support for Family Mealtimes on Obesity Prevention among Head Start Preschoolers; The goal of this multi-state research/Extension project is to determine efficacious educational strategies for reducing obesity in young children.
Contreras (PI) - 2020-2023; Michigan Department of Community Health: Physician Peer Education on Immunization; This grant provides immunization education to physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
MSU Extension awarded four-year, $600,000 grant for chronic disease management programming
Published on June 16, 2023
Michigan State University researchers to examine sleep patterns in older care facilities
Published on January 27, 2020