Deborah Salvo

Photo of faculty member Deborah  Salvo
Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education

Phone: +1 512 471 8599
Office: BEL 510
Office Hours: By appointment
View Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Dr. Salvo is an associate professor of Health Behavior and Health Education in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education of the College of Education.

Dr. Salvo is a physical activity and public health scientist. Through her work, she seeks to understand the role of context on physical activity and health disparities, with a special emphasis on Latin American populations, both in the US and abroad. Her research is motivated by the pursuit of health equity and social justice. Her long-term goal is to produce contextually relevant evidence for reducing spatial health disparities in access to environments that enable physically active, healthy and sustainable lifestyles for all. As is well known in public health, the residential zip code where people live has a stronger influence on their health and economic outcomes than their genetics. Given the scarcity of high-quality research examining the effect of space and place (i.e., social, built and policy environments) on physical activity, health behavior and quality of life outcomes in low- and middle-income countries, and among ethnic and racial minorities in the US, Dr. Salvo's work focuses on filling this critical gap.

Dr. Salvo's work takes place both in the U.S. and internationally. In the US, she has led or collaborated in projects based in Texas, Missouri, Alabama, Illinois and California. Internationally, she has led projects and has close working relationships with researchers and institutions across Latin America, and in particular, has strong ties with the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico – the leading public health research institution in Latin America.

Dr. Salvo is an active member of multiple highly productive, multi-national research teams focused on developing and applying state-of-the-art physical activity and spatial epidemiological methods for advancing globally-focused physical activity and built environment research. Some of these studies include: the International Physical Activity and the Environment Network study (IPEN), the Our Voice Global Network Project, the Lancet Series for Physical Activity working group, the Lancet Global Indicators for Urban Livability and Sustainability working group, the Global Observatory for Physical Activity and the Global Observatory for Healthy and Sustainable Cities. In addition, Dr. Salvo has served as an advisor for several local, state, and national departments of chronic disease prevention/healthy lifestyle promotion/urbanism and health; funding agencies (e.g., Fogarty International Center/NIH; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation); and international organizations, including the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization.

In parallel to her research on space, place and physical activity, a critical priority of Dr. Salvo is to build capacity for physical activity and public health research in settings or among populations for which contextually-relevant evidence to guide policy action is lacking the most. Dr. Salvo has led several training programs to install and enhance research capacity in physical activity and public health in Latin America. In 2021, she organized the first Latin American Congress on Physical Activity and Health Research.

Prior to joining UT Austin, Dr. Salvo held academic appointments at Washington University in St. Louis, UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, and Stanford University. She earned her Ph.D. from Emory University and her Bachelor in Science from Universidad Iberoamericana (Mexico City, Mexico).