Katherine E. Speirs, Ph.D.

Assistant State Specialist for Early Childhood
Assistant Professor
Family Studies and Human Development
650 N Park Ave
Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078
(520) 621-1691

I am accepting graduate students for entry in Fall 2021. Please contact me for more information!

Areas of Expertise

  • Childhood development
  • Early childhood education and care
  • Childhood obesity prevention, especially in early care and education settings
  • Program development and evaluation
  • Qualitative research methods

Research Focus

My research and outreach focus on early care and education as a setting for health promotion and obesity prevention for young children. I am interested in the feeding practices child care providers use with young children, connections between early care and education settings and the home, and how policy can shape young children’s well-being.  My outreach focuses on developing innovative approaches to improving the health and well-being of young children.  I am interested in how technology (e.g. text messages) can be used for outreach, program delivery, and evaluation.  As an extension specialist I work closely with Arizona’s Family & Consumer Health Sciences extension agents and staff to deliver and evaluate programing and address local needs.  I enjoy working collaboratively and believe that we can best address the complex challenges faced by young children and their families through multidisciplinary teamwork. 

Current Projects

Improving Feeding Practices in Childcare Settings: This project includes a research and program development component.  The research component explores child care providers’ knowledge of and barriers to using health-promoting feeding practices.  I am currently translating the findings from this research study into online educational materials to assist child care providers in using best practices around feeding.

Feeding Kids in Care: This project explores family day care providers’ participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).  CACFP is a federal nutrition program that provides reimbursement for healthy meals and snacks served in child care facilities.  The multidisciplinary Feeding Kids in Care team is interested in understanding child care providers’ experiences participating in CACFP and the impact of program participation on the quality, variety and quantity of food served to young children, as well as other aspects of the care setting. More information can be found here: http://familyresiliency.illinois.edu/research/feeding-kids-care

Select Publications

Grutzmacher, S.K., Braunscheidel-Duru, E., Speirs, K.E., Worthington, L., Munger, A.L., & Lachenmayr, L.A. (in press). Using text messages to engage parents in school-based nutrition education. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition.

Dev, D.A., Speirs, K.E., Williams, N., Ramsay, S., McBride, B., Hatton-Bowers, H. (2017). Providers’ perspectives on self-regulation impact their use of responsive feeding practices in child care. Appetite, 118, 66-74. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.07.022

Grutzmacher, S.K., Munger, A.L., Speirs, K.E., Zemeir, L.A., Richard, K.C., & Worthington, L. (2017). Feasibility of bidirectional text messages in evaluating a text-based nutrition education program for low-income parents: Results from the Text2BHealthy program. Evaluation and Program Planning, 64, 90-94. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2017.04.001

Musaad, S., Speirs, K.E., Hayes, J.T., Mobley, A., Fitzgerald, N., Jones, B.L., VanBrackle, A., & Sigman-Grant, M. (2017). The impact of environment, parent and child factors on health-related behaviors among low-income children. Appetite, 112, 260-271. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.01.035

Dev, D.A., McBride, B.A., Speirs, K.E., & Blitch, K.A., Williams, N. (2016). 'Great job cleaning your plate today!'  Determinants of Child Care Providers' Use of Controlling Feeding Practices: An Exploratory Examination. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116, 1803-1809 doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.07.016

Speirs, K.E., Grutzmacher, S. K., Messina, L.A., & Munger, A.L. (2016). Recruitment and retention in an SMS-based health education program: Lessons learned from Text2BHealthy. Health Informatics Journal, 22, 651-658. doi: 0.1177/1460458215577995

Speirs, K.E., Fiese, B.H., & the STRONG Kids Research Team. (2016). The relationship between food insecurity and BMI for preschool children. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 20, 925-933. doi: 10.1007/s10995-015-1881-0.

Speirs, K.E., Hayes, J.T., Musaad, S., VanBrackle, A., & Sigman-Grant, M. (2016). Family sense of coherence as a protective factor against the obesogenic environment. Appetite, 99, 268-276. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.025.

Swartz, R.A., Speirs, K.E., Encinger, A.J., & McElwain, N.L. (2016). A Mixed Methods Investigation of Maternal Perspectives on Transition Experiences in Early Care and Education. Early Education and Development, 27, 170-189. doi: 10.1080/10409289.2016.1087777

Speirs, K.E., Vesely, C.K., & Roy, K. (2015). Is stability always a good thing?  Low-income mothers’ experiences with child care transitions. Children and Youth Services Review, 53, 147-156. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.03.026

Munger, A.E., Lloyd, T.S., Speirs, K.E., Riera, K., & Grutzmacher, S.K. (2015). More than just not enough: Experiences of food insecurity for Latino immigrants. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 17, 1548-1556. doi: 10.1007/s10903-014-0124-6

Speirs, K.E., Liechty, J.M., & Wu, C.F. (2014). Sleep, but not other daily routines, mediates the association between maternal employment and BMI for preschool children. Sleep Medicine. 15, 1590-1593. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2014.08.006

Dev, D.A., Speirs, K.E., & McBride, B.A. (2014). Head Start and child care providers’ motivators, barriers, and facilitators to practicing family-style meal service. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. 29, 649-659. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.07.004  

Dev, D.A., McBride, B.A., Speirs, K.E., Donovan, S.M., & Cho, H.K. (2014). Predictors of Head Start and child-care providers’ healthful and controlling feeding practices with 2-to 5-year old children. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114, 1396-1403. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.01.006

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