Department of Health and Human Performance

Blakely Brown



Personal Summary

Dr. Brown’s research, teaching and service focus on nutrition and chronic disease prevention, maternal-child health, childhood obesity and diabetes prevention, community-based participatory research methods, Native American and Indigenous health and diversity-related activities. Her areas of expertise are successful research collaborations with rural and Native American and Indigenous communities that have resulted in longitudinal studies reporting risk factors for diabetes in native and non-native children, assessments of environmental and behavioral factors associated with risk for childhood obesity and diabetes in rural communities, implementation of community-based strategies to improve rural food environments and conducting randomized, controlled trials for preventing obesity and diabetes in youth. 


B.S. Foods and Nutrition, Montana State University, 1996

PhD Nutritional Biochemistry, University of Minnesota, 2000

RD, University of Minnesota, 2000

Courses Taught

NUTR 221: Basic Human Nutrition

HHP 544: Community Based Participatory Research Methods for Health

Research Interests

Childhood obesity prevention

Food security

Food environments, food systems

Health disparities

Community-based participatory based research

Mixed-methods research

American Indian undergraduate and graduate education in health and behavioral sciences

Maternal-child health

Nutrition and physical activity child and family obesity prevention programs


Current Research Projects

National Science Foundation: 1432694         10/1/2014 – 3/31/2020                                                                                          

Collaborative Research: AGEP-T: Pacific Northwest Collaborative Opportunities for Success in Mentoring of Students (PNW-COSMOS).

The PNW-COSMOS project will develop, implement, and study a model of STEM graduate education focusing on American Indians and Native Alaskans.

Role on Project: Co-Principal Investigator


National Science Foundation: 1723248            09/01/2017-08/31/2021

Collaborative Research: AGEP Transformation Alliance: Willow Partnership for Success

The Willow Partnership for Success is a Transformation Alliance project brings together three Alliance institutions - University of Montana, Salish Kootenai College, and Sitting Bull College to develop and implement a model that enhances the success of Native American faculty in STEM fields.

Role on Project: Co-Investigator


USDA-NIFA 11898018                                                                     03/01/16 – 03/15/19

Growing Strong Generations

This collaborative USDA Strengthening project will plant the seeds for a multi-year, integrated USDA AFRI project that will significantly impact the food and nutrition needs of children living in rural, low-resourced, American Indian communities. This project is a research collaboration between the University of Montana, Salish-Kootenai College and the Flathead Indian reservation.

Role on Project: Co-Principal Investigator


Completed Research Support (in the past 5 years)

National Institute of Child Health and Development


Partnerships to Prevent Childhood Obesity on the Flathead Indian Reservation

This 3-year study is developing partnerships between the University of Montana and community organizations and residents on the Flathead Indian Reservation to implement interventions that decrease risk of obesity in children living on the Flathead Reservation.

Role on Project: Principal Investigator


National Institute of General Medical Sciences/Montana INBRE


Generations Health Project: An after-school and home-based childhood obesity prevention program

This project is conducting a pilot study of a nutrition and physical activity after-school and home-based childhood obesity prevention for Native and non-Native children ages 6 to 9 and their caregiver/guardian (n=24 family groupings) and preparing an NIH R01 proposal for a full scale trial of the obesity prevention intervention.

Role on Project: Principal Investigator


National Institute of General Medical Sciences/Montana INBRE

National Institute of General Medical Sciences/Mountain West CTR-IN

1U54 GM104944-01                                                 

Fully developing and piloting a high-intensity nutrition and exercise after-school program

This study developed family-based intervention materials and test the feasibility of a high-intensity nutrition and exercise intervention for children attending an after-school program.

Role on Project: Principal Investigator


P20GM103474                                                                                               5/01/2014 – 04/30/2016

NIGMS – Montana INBRE                                                                                      

Indoor exposure and dietary determinants of DNA methylation in asthmatic children

This study aims to determine the association between indoor PM and endotoxin exposure due to biomass combustion and DNA methylation among asthmatic and non-asthmatic children and the effect of dietary factors on epigenetic profiles and respiratory health.

Role on Project: Co-Principal Investigator


1 R34 DK096403-01A1                                                                                

National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases                     6/01/14 – 5/30/16

Tribal Turning Point: Pilot Study of Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes in American Indian Youth

This study  developed and pilot tested an adapted version of the adult-based Diabetes Prevention Program to be developmentally relevant for American Indian youth, and incorporated a motivational learning approach with the curricula.

Role on Project: Consultant (Mayer-Davis E, PI at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)


National Institute of General Medical Sciences/Mountain West CTR-IN

1U54 GM104944-01                                                 

CTR-IN Visiting Scholars Exchange

This 4 month visiting scholars exchange allowed Blakely Brown to participate in research activities with her primary mentor, Dr. Marjorie Mau and the Center for Native and Pacific Health Disparities Research at the University of Hawaii, to learn more about their community-based, diabetes and obesity prevention research being implemented in native communities on Oahu.

Role on Project: Principal Investigator


Montana Department of Transportation                                                                              

Improving Participation in the Safe Routes to Schools Programs on a Northern Plains Indian Reservation

This study assisted K-8 elementary and middle schools on a Northern Plains Indian Reservation to assess ways to increase children walking and biking to school. 

Role on Project: Principal Investigator


National Institute of Health; Montana State University Center for Native Health Partnerships


Impact of a gardening program on mental health indicators and diabetes-related outcomes in American Indian adults

This study determined the effect of a community garden program for American Indian adults with pre-diabetes and diabetes on clinical measures associated with glycemic control and mental health indicators. A secondary aim of the study assessed the acceptability of foods produced in the garden program in food environments on a Montana Indian reservation.

Role on Project: Principal Investigator


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research                                                  

Improving Participation and Evaluation of Safe Routes to Schools Programs for American Indian Communities

This study utilized qualitative research methods to determine barriers and enhancers to Montana tribal communities applying for SRTS funding, and developed policy change recommendations and disseminate findings.

Role on Project: Co-Principal Investigator


National Institute of Health/UM-COBRE

P20 RR017670-09     

Gestational exposures, epigenetics and respiratory health

The focus of this pilot study was to identify genome methylation patterns that are associated with in utero biomass smoke exposure and maternal diet (Aim 1) and to determine how these exposures are associated with early life respiratory outcomes in children (Aim 2).

Role on Project: Co-Investigator


Indian Health Service/MT-WY Tribal Epicenter                               

Child Health Measures in Northern Plains Children and Adolescents

This project collaborated with nine Montana-Wyoming Northern Plains Indian reservations and the Montana-Wyoming Epidemiology Center to establish a longitudinal, cohort database for pediatric health measures in Northern Plains Indian children and adolescents.

Role: Project Director


National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease         


Journey to Native Youth Health: A Diabetes Prevention Program in American Indian Youth.

This three year study developed and tested community-based, culturally specific diet and exercise strategies for Northern Plains Indian youth, ages 10 -14 on two Montana reservations.

Role: Principal Investigator


Selected Publications

Brown BD, Thomas W, Hutchins A, Martini MC, Slavin JL. Types of dietary fat and soy minimally affect hormones and biomarkers associated with breast cancer risk in premenopausal women.  Nutrition and Cancer. 2002:43(1):22-30

Campbell C, Brown B, Dufner D and Thorland W. Effects of soy or milk protein during a high fat feeding challenge on oxidative stress, inflammation and lipids in healthy menLipids. 2006;41, L9840:257-265.

Brown BD and Noonan C. Prevalence of food insecurity and health associated outcomes and food characteristics of Northern Plains Indian households.  Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. 2007;1:37-44.

Brown B, Gohdes D, Amundson H, Oser C, Helgerson SD, Harwell TS. Population surveillance to monitor rates of gestational diabetes mellitus in subsequent populations. Diabetes. 2008: 57(June) 2441.

Brown B, Burns T. Measuring food purchases, community needs and tribal policy for healthy foods in local grocery stores on and near a Northern Plains Indian reservation.; 2007 Native Peoples Technical Assistance Office, Tucson, AZ.

Brown B, Noonan C, Friede P, Giroux J. Acanthosis nigricans and obesity in Northern Plains Indian children and adolescents.  Diabetes. 2008;57(June), SA744.

 Brown B, Harris K, Ricci C, Parker M, Harris JL, TopSky W, Wilson T, Friede P, Noonan C. Lessons Learned in Adapting the Diabetes Prevention Program for 10-14 Year Old Northern Plains Indian Youth. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2009;37:S51.

Noonan C, Brown B, Bentley B, Conway K, Corcoran M, FourStar K, Friede P, Hemlock B, Wagner S, Wilson T. Variability of asthma prevalence across Northern Plains American Indian communities and associations with body mass index. Journal of Asthma. 2010;47:496–500.

Brown B, Harris KJ, Harris JL, Parker M, Ricci C, Noonan C. Translating the Diabetes Prevention Program for Northern Plains Indian youth through community-based participatory research methods. The Diabetes Educator. 2010;36:924-35.

Brown B, Noonan C, Bentley B, Conway K, Corcoran M, FourStar K, Gress S and Wagner S. Acanthosis Nigricans among Northern Plains American Indian Children. Journal of School Nursing. 2010;26 450-60.

Brown B, Noonan C, Harris KJ, Parker M, Wilson T, Gress S, Harris JL, Gaskill S, Ricci C, Top Sky W, Cobbs G. Diabetes Prevention Program for Native American Youth: The JOURNEY to Native Youth Health Feasibility Study. Diabetes. 2011;60:S1:A82.

Ricci C, Brown B, Noonan, C, Harris KJ, Dybdal L, Parker M, Gress S. Parental influence on obesity in Northern Plains American Indian youth. Family and Community Health. 2012;35.1:68-75.

Brown B, Noonan C, Harris KJ, Parker M, Gaskill S, Ricci C, Cobbs G, Gress S. Developing and Piloting the Journey to Native Youth Health Program in Northern Plains Indian Communities. The Diabetes Educator. 2013;39(1): 109-118. 

Hutchins A, Brown B, Cunnane S, Domitrovich S, Adams E, Bobowiec C. Daily flaxseed consumption improves glycemic control in obese men and women with pre-diabetes: A randomized, controlled study. Nutrition Research. 2013;33(5):367-75

Lommen A, Brown B, Sondag A, Hollist D. Experiential Perceptions of Relactation: A Phenomenological Study. Journal of Human Lactation. 2015:1-6.

Brown B. Understanding and confronting obesity and diabetes in Montana Native communities. The Montana Professor. July 2015;25(2).

Pedersen M, Christopher S, Brown B. Building capacity to increase health promotion funding to American Indian communities: Recommendations from community members. Health Promotion Practice. Jan 2016. pii: 1524839915622195. [Epub ahead of print]

Grant V, Hollist D, Noonan C, Swaney G, Harris KJ, Gaskill S, Brown B. Community-identified strategies to increase physical activity during elementary school recess on an American Indian reservation: A pilot study. Preventive Medicine Reports. 2015;658-663.

Grant V, Swaney G, Harris KJ, Burdeau Z, Brown B. Assessing barriers and enhancers to increasing physical activity during the school day in children on an American Indian Reservation: A qualitative research study. Health Behavior and Policy Review. 2016, 3(5), 429-438.

Perline A, Heuscher A, Sondag A, Brown B. Perceptions of local hospitals and food producers on opportunities and barriers to implementing farm-to-hospital programs. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development 2015, 6(1), 147-159.

Montrose L, Ward T, Semmens E, Cho YH, Brown BD, Noonan C. Assessing the impact of dietary nutrients on respiratory health outcome measures and DNA methylation in asthmatic children. Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology, 2017 13(12), DOI: 10.1186/s13223-017-0187-8.

Windchief S, Brown B. Conceptualizing a mentoring program for American Indian/Alaska Native students in the STEM fields: A review of the literature. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 2017.

Windchief S, Arouca R, Brown B. Developing an Indigenous Mentoring Program to train faculty mentoring American Indians and Alaska Native graduate students in STEM. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 2019.

Pedersen M, Brown B, Harris K, France S, Tryon M, Cooksley A. Rural caregiver support and engagement with child health behaviors in the home environment: A qualitative study. Ann Behav Med., 2018;52(S1):S712.

Brown B, Harris K, Heil D, Tryon M, Cooksley A, Semmens E, Davis J, Gandhi K. Feasibility and outcomes of an out-of-school and home-based obesity prevention pilot study for rural children on an American Indian reservation. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 2018, 4 (129), 1-12. DOI:

Brown B, Harris K, Dybdal L, Malich J, Bodnar B, Hall E. Feasibility of text messaging to promote child health in a rural community located on an American Indian Reservation. Health Education Journal, Feb 2019, 1-13. DOI:

Brown B, Dybdal L, Noonan C, Pedersen M, Parker M, Corcoran M. Group gardening in a Native American community: A collaborative approach. Health Promotion Practice, 2019.

Honors / Awards

2018/19: Sabbatical, Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences

2017: CTRN Pilot Grant Awardee, University of Las Vegas, NV

2015/16: Merit Award, Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences

2015/16: International Faculty Exchange (UM Provost Office) - University of Auckland, Massey University - College of Health, New Zealand                                    

2015: UM Nancy Borgmann Diversity Award                                                       

2013: UM Faculty Appreciation Award, Division of Student Affairs                   

2011/12: Merit Award, School of Education and Human Sciences                            

2010/11: Sabbatical, School of Education and Human Sciences                                

2007/08: Merit Award, School of Education and Human Sciences                             

2006: UM Faculty Appreciation Award, Division of Student Affairs                    

1995: Excellence Award, Montana State University                                         


gardening, backcountry camping and tramping, reading, ceramics, bee-keeping, cooking, spending time with family and friends, meditation, long distance running, walking