Deborah Tate, PhD

Interim Director, Professor of Nutrition

Deborah Tate is a professor in the Department of Nutrition. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Health Behavior and a faculty appointment at the Nutrition Research Institute. Dr. Tate is a behavioral scientist, receiving her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Her research focuses on two main areas: (a) strategies for improving both short and long-term body weight regulation to reduce disease risks and (b) the development and translation of programs as alternatives to clinic-based care using digital and wearable technologies. She has been continuously funded in obesity, diabetes prevention and digital health intervention research by the National Institutes of Health since 2000 and is known internationally for her work in web and mobile interventions. Dr. Tate has numerous papers published in major nutrition and medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA-Internal Medicine, Obesity, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Health Psychology, and others. Dr. Tate is faculty director of the UNC Weight Research Program, and for the Communications for Health Applications and Interventions (CHAI) Core a shared resource serving faculty in both the Nutrition Obesity Research Center and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She teaches a graduate-level course entitled “mHealth for Behavior Change”.

Dr. Tate conducted several of the first randomized trials using the Internet and new technologies to deliver behavioral treatments for obesity. She continues to conduct studies to determine which features of digital programs contribute to efficacy, how to use wearable and other passive data to inform tailoring, and what types of intervention messages and strategies work best for whom and in what contexts. Her work has focused on bringing greater specificity to digital intervention science and uses advanced intervention methodologies such as the Multiphase Optimization Strategy, multiple randomized trials (MRT) and adaptive (SMART) designs to optimize digital obesity prevention and treatment interventions. Her recent work has focused on precision public health messaging for just-in-time-adaptive interventions and precision nutrition and obesity approaches which offer high degrees of individual tailoring. 

Tate’s Team

In the News

‘Human’ touch improves weight-management apps

This article originally appeared on Written by Scott Jared, University Communications Traditional in-person weight-management programs result in about 10% weight loss over six to 12 months, better results than people get using more convenient smartphone apps....



Changes in Cardiovascular Risk Factors Over 6 Years in Young Adults in a Randomized Trial of Weight Gain Prevention.


Autologous cancer cell vaccination, adoptive T-cell transfer, and interleukin-2 administration results in long-term survival for companion dogs with osteosarcoma.

Examining barriers, physical activity, and weight change among parents and nonparents in a weight loss intervention.