William McCarthy, PhD

Dr. McCarthy has devoted most of his 30-year career to using behavioral strategies to help people to eat better, exercise more, and avoid tobacco use. Most of his research focus has been on low-income populations. In his current work he is collaborating with community health workers to help low-income patients who are overweight to eat more minimally processed fruits and vegetables and exercise more regularly to achieve sustainable weight loss. From 2010 through 2015, he co-directed UCLA’s Center for Population Health and Health Disparities, which focused on using promotoras to get residents of East Los Angeles who were at risk of cardiovascular disease to adhere to federal nutrition and physical activity guidelines. He recently embarked on a pilot study to educate low-income residents of Los Angeles to evaluate the impact of consuming more dietary fiber from garden-fresh produce by periodically evaluating features of their normal stools. Dr. McCarthy received the 1994 American Cancer Society Capitol Dome award and 2013 American Cancer Society St. George’s medal for his career of public service and received the 1994 Health Fitness Leader award from the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. He received a PhD in psychology from Yale University and a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois.

Current project focused on preventing hepatocellular and colon cancer

Pilot study funded by the National Cancer Institute in partnership with the Lincoln Memorial Church in South Central Los Angeles titled, "South LA families fight cancer with garden-fresh food choices." Child-parent dyads will participate in 10-session, church-based, health education program involving interactive games for the children and cooking demonstrations for the adults. Intervention goals include increased intake of minimally processed fruits and vegetables and increased physical activity. Primary six months outcome measure is value on the Bristol Stool Scale and increased number of steps on Fitbit activity tracker. Secondary outcome is daily fruit and vegetable-specific dietary fiber intake as assessed by the Block Food Frequency questionnaire. The primary hypothesis is that the intervention will result in improvement in stool quality, mediated by increased fruit and vegetable-specific fiber intake.

Project awaiting funding

National Cancer Institute proposal (PI=Flores), "Diet, gut microbiome, metabolic dysregulation and risk of liver disease/cancer in Mexicans," is pending funding. The goal of this research is to describe the interplay between diet, the gut microbiome, and metabolic dysregulation using data from an existing longitudinal cohort of Mexican adults. Mexicans suffer disproportionately from chronic liver disease. Risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as reflected by standard liver enzyme levels will be evaluated in relation to dietary, metabolomic and metagenomic measures obtained from a subset of the participants in the longitudinal cohort.


  1. Hohl SD, Thompson B, Krok-Schoen JL, Weier RC, Martin M, Bone L, McCarthy WJ, Noel SE, Garcia B, Calderon NE, Paskett ED. Characterizing Community Health Workers on Research Teams: Results From the Centers for Population Health and Health DisparitiesAm J Public Health. 2016:e1-e7.
  2. Cavallo DN, Horino M, McCarthy WJ. Adult Intake of Minimally Processed Fruits and Vegetables: Associations with Cardiometabolic Disease Risk FactorsJ Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116(9):1387-1394. PMID: 27174619.
  3. McGuirt JT, Jilcott SB, Ammerman AS, Prelip M, Hillstrom K, Garcia R-E, McCarthy WJ. A Mixed Methods Comparison of Urban and Rural Retail Corner StoresAIMS Public Health. 2015:554-582. http://www.aimspress.com/article/10.3934/publichealth.2015.3.554. Accessed March 16, 2016.
  4. Honeycutt S, Leeman J, McCarthy WJ, Bastani R, Carter-Edwards L, Clark H, Garney W, Gustat J, Hites L, Nothwehr F, Kegler M. Evaluating Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change Interventions: Lessons Learned From CDC's Prevention Research CentersPrev Chronic Dis. 2015;12:E174. Pmc4611860.
  5. Cooper LA, Ortega AN, Ammerman AS, Buchwald D, Paskett ED, Powell LH, Thompson B, Tucker KL, Warnecke RB, McCarthy WJ, Viswanath KV, Henderson JA, Calhoun EA, Williams DR. Calling for a Bold New Vision of Health Disparities Intervention ResearchAm J Public Health. 2015:e1-e3.
  6. Bharmal N, Kaplan RM, Shapiro MF, Mangione CM, Kagawa-Singer M, Wong MD, McCarthy WJ. The Association of Duration of Residence in the United States with Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among South Asian ImmigrantsJ. Immigr. Minor. Health. 2015;17(3):781-790.
  7. Barr-Anderson DJ, McCarthy WJ, Yore M, Harris KA, Yancey AK. Television viewing and food choice patterns in a sample of predominantly ethnic minority youth. Complexity of Adolescent Obesity: Causes, Correlates, and Consequences. 2015:29-36.
  8. Gase LN, McCarthy WJ, Robles B, Kuo T. Student receptivity to new school meal offerings: Assessing fruit and vegetable waste among middle school students in the Los Angeles Unified School DistrictPrev. Med. 2014;67:S28-S33.
  9. McCarthy WJ, Goldstein H, Sharp M, Batch E. Voluntary Health Organizations and Nonprofit Advocacy Organizations Play Critical Roles in Making Community Norms More Supportive of Healthier Eating and Increased Physical Activity. In: Jerome E. Williams KEP, Chiquita A. Collins, ed. Advances in Communication Research to Reduce Childhood Obesity. New York City: Springer Science + Business Media; 2013:459-486.
  10. Roberts CK, Freed BA, McCarthy WJ. Low Aerobic Fitness and Obesity Are Associated with Lower Standardized Test Scores in ChildrenJ. Pediatr. 2010;156(711-718).

Contact information

[email protected]
Tel: 310-794-7587