Maja Pedersen, PhD, is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. Dr. Pedersen’s research is focused on three inter-related themes; (1) utilizing community-based approaches to improve understanding of individual, social, and environmental determinants of and barriers to physical activity; (2) adapting and implementing lifestyle interventions with diverse older adults; and (3) exploring relationships between physical activity, outdoor spaces, and well-being. She is currently a National Cancer Institute K00 Fellow, using community-based approaches and implementation science to increase physical activity and address health equity among rural Native American older adults.

Honors & Awards

  • Global Health Postdoctoral Affiliate, Center for Innovation in Global Health (CIGH) (2022)
  • Trainee, Global Alliance for Chronic Disease (GACD), 5th Implementation Science School (2022)
  • NIH Loan Repayment Award (NCI Health Disparities Research), National Institutes of Health (2021-2023)
  • Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health Inductee, University of Montana (2021)
  • Walking College Fellow, AmericaWalks (2021)
  • Bertha Morton Scholar, University of Montana (2020)
  • PEO Scholar Award, P.E.O. International (2019)
  • Summer School Fellow, International Behavioural Trials Network, University of Quebec, Montreal, Quebec (2018)
  • Student Leaders in Public Health Award, Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center (2017)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Editorial Board Member, Translational Behavioral Medicine (2022 - Present)
  • Postdoctoral Representative, Stanford Prevention Research Center Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Taskforce (2021 - Present)
  • Member, The Gerontological Society of America (2019 - Present)
  • Member, Society of Behavioral Medicine (2016 - Present)

Stanford Advisors

Community and International Work

  • U.S. Sports Diplomacy Delegate - Peru, Lima and Arequipa, Peru


    Promoting soccer for health equity among girls and women

    Partnering Organization(s)

    U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

    Ongoing Project


    Opportunities for Student Involvement


  • U.S. Fulbright Research Scholar Award, Trondheim, Norway


    Obesity prevention, health policy and programming

    Partnering Organization(s)

    Norwegian University of Science and Technology



    Ongoing Project


    Opportunities for Student Involvement


All Publications

  • How Can Sport-Based Interventions Improve Health among Women and Girls? A Scoping Review. International journal of environmental research and public health Pedersen, M., King, A. C. 2023; 20 (6)


    Sport has been identified by the World Health Organization as an underutilized yet important contributor to global physical activity, by UNESCO as a fundamental right, and by the United Nations as a promising driver for gender equity through improved long-term health of women and girls. Although sport-based interventions have been popularized to advance educational, social, and political development globally, little attention has been given to its impacts on health outcomes among women and girls. We undertook a scoping review of research on sport-based interventions for health among women and girls to summarize current research approaches and findings. PRISMA scoping review guidelines were observed. Online databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science) were used to identify peer-reviewed records published through August 2022. The interventions identified (n = 4) targeted health outcomes such as gender-based violence, HIV prevention, reproductive health, and child marriage. Based on our review, we recommend four key opportunities to advance the field of sport-based interventions in addressing health equity among women and girls. In addition, we highlight promising future research directions to broaden sport engagement of women and girls, improve long-term health, and build capacity toward health equity.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/ijerph20064818

    View details for PubMedID 36981727

  • The "Our Voice" Method: Participatory Action Citizen Science Research to Advance Behavioral Health and Health Equity Outcomes. International journal of environmental research and public health Pedersen, M., Wood, G. E., Fernes, P. K., Goldman Rosas, L., Banchoff, A., King, A. C. 2022; 19 (22)


    Citizen science research that more fully engages the community can systematically involve people from under-resourced groups to create practical health-enhancing improvements across physical, social and food environments. Exemplary health equity-focused outcomes include key health behaviors (e.g., healthy eating or physical activity) and community-level changes (e.g., public transit to food shops) that are central to health promotion while being demonstrably impacted by local environmental contexts. Yet, few examples of this approach are readily available for application within complex, community-based settings. In this paper, we present the Our Voice (OV) four-step method to demonstrate an integrated participatory citizen science approach and its usability for action-focused researchers and community health practitioners. In addition, we present a summary of the major research, processes, and community outcomes, with examples drawn from nutrition and healthy food access areas, among others. Finally, we explore the hallmark features of the OV method that effectively engage citizen scientists, empowering action and fostering solution-building across social and environmental structures impacting community health. Expanding research that marries participatory research philosophies with innovative citizen science methods, supported by systematic data collection, visualization, and delivery technologies, in turn provides a powerful toolkit for tackling local to global health equity challenges.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/ijerph192214773

    View details for PubMedID 36429494

  • Physical Activity Intervention Adaptation: Recommendations from Rural American Indian Older Adults. Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research Pedersen, M., Harris, K. J., Brown, B., Grant, M., Kleinmeyer, C., Glass, A., Graham, N., King, D. K. 1800


    Preventive interventions are critical to improving health equity among American Indian (AI) populations, yet interventions that promote physical activity (PA) among AI populations are scarce. This research addresses the research-to-practice gap by informing the adaption and implementation process of evidence-based interventions (EBIs) among rural AI older adults. We used a community-based approach and an Indigenous-focused adaptation theoretical framework. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews elicited detailed information on preferences for PA intervention among rural AI older adults. We applied a collaborative directed content analysis strategy, and established trustworthiness and relevance using an inter-rater reliability process and member checking. We conducted 21 interviews, all participants identified as AI, the mean age was 66years (SD=7.6), and 57% were female. Themes characterized contextual and cultural intervention considerations for adapting and implementing evidence-based PA interventions in rural AI older adults. Key findings included an emphasis on social and community interaction, strategies for targeted engagement, preference for group format, pairing PA sessions with shared meals, and inclusiveness in the PA intervention across ability levels and age groups. This study identified opportunities for adaptation of PA-focused EBIs among rural AI older adults. Findings can be applied to support the adaptation and implementation of effective and relevant PA-focused preventive interventions among this population which is at high risk for chronic disease and health disparities.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s11121-022-01342-y

    View details for PubMedID 35092521

  • Exploring Personal, Relational, and Collective Experiences and Mentorship Connections That Enhance or Inhibit Professional Development and Career Advancement of Native American Faculty in STEM Fields: A Qualitative Study JOURNAL OF DIVERSITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION Brown, B., Pedersen, M., Harrington, J., Belcourt, A., Windchief, S., Thomas, A., Kills, R., Conroy-Ben, O., Brodt, E., Chief, K., Hoagland, S., Johnson-Jennings, M., Lewis, J., Mink, K., Milligan-Myhre, K. A., Calhoun, M., Ozburn, A., Simonds, V., Grant, A., Hill, S., Wu, K. 2022

    View details for DOI 10.1037/dhe0000376

    View details for Web of Science ID 000741680300001

  • Uplifting the voices of rural American Indian older adults to improve understanding of physical activity behavior. Translational behavioral medicine Pedersen, M., Harris, K. J., Lewis, J., Grant, M., Kleinmeyer, C., Glass, A., Graham, N., Brown, B., King, D. 2021


    American Indian (AI) older adults experience pronounced health disparities and demonstrate one of the lowest levels of physical activity (PA) among racial and ethnic groups. Nearly half of AI older adults live in rural areas, indicating distinct challenges to participation in PA. Research to identify factors influencing PA in this population is missing from the literature, yet is critical to informing culturally relevant PA intervention development and implementation. The purpose was to identify barriers to and facilitators of PA among rural AI older adults using the ecological model and qualitative methods. A community-based approach was used to conduct semi-structured interviews with rural AI older adults. Interview questions were based on a multi-level ecological model. Content analysis was performed, using an iterative coding process to identify findings. The mean age of participants (n = 21) was 66 years. Barriers to and facilitators of PA were identified across ecological model levels. Barriers included factors such as caregiving and community responsibilities, lack of acceptable areas for walking, and overall lack of community-level support for older adult health. Facilitators included a personal connection to the land and ancestors through PA, multigenerational participation, and supportive tribal policies. This study addressed a gap in the literature by identifying barriers to and facilitators of PA among rural AI older adults, which can inform PA intervention development. With barriers and facilitators identified by AI older adults themselves, the voices of those directly affected are uplifted to shape efforts toward addressing longstanding health disparities through relevant public health interventions.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/tbm/ibab107

    View details for PubMedID 34347863

  • A Systematic Review of Interventions to Increase Physical Activity Among American Indian and Alaska Native Older Adults. The Gerontologist Pedersen, M., Harris, K. J., Brown, B., Anderson, K., Lewis, J. P. 2021


    Physical activity (PA) is a powerful protective factor known to reduce risk for chronic conditions across the lifespan. PA levels are lower among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIANs) when compared with other racial/ethnic groups and decrease with age. This evidence justifies a synthesis of current intervention research to increase PA levels among AIANs. This systematic review examines completed interventions to increase PA among AIAN older adults and considers recommended practices for research with Indigenous communities.The systematic review was designed in accordance with the PRISMA statement for systematic review protocols and reporting guidelines. Electronic databases PubMed, Web of Science, and PsycINFO were searched for academic literature. Trials investigating interventions to increase PA among AIAN adults ages 50+ were eligible. The Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies was used to evaluate the quality of evidence.Three published trials were identified, including one group-level, clinic-based and two individual-level, home-based interventions. All were 6-weeks in duration, took place in urban areas, and used self-report PA measures. Findings indicated an overall increase in PA levels, improved PA-related outcomes, and improved psychosocial health among participants. None described a community-engaged or culture-centered research strategies.The narrow yet promising evidence represents a need for expanded research and a call to action for using culture-centered strategies. An advanced understanding of cultural and contextual aspects of PA may produce more impactful interventions, supporting health and mobility across the lifespan.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/geront/gnab020

    View details for PubMedID 33605417

  • Building Capacity to Increase Health Promotion Funding to American Indian Communities: Recommendations From Community Members HEALTH PROMOTION PRACTICE Pedersen, M., Held, S., Brown, B. 2016; 17 (6): 907-914


    Foundations and government agencies have historically played a critical role in supporting community-based health promotion programs. Increased access to health promotion funding may help address significant health issues existing within American Indian (AI) communities, such as childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Understanding the capacity of AI communities to successfully apply for and receive funding may serve to increase resources for health promotion efforts within AI communities in Montana. This exploratory qualitative study completed 17 semistructured interviews across three AI reservations in the state of Montana. Dimensions of community capacity within the context of the funding application process and partnership with funding agencies were identified, including resources, leadership, community need, networks, and relationship with the funding agency. Dimensions of AI community capacity were then used to suggest capacity-building strategies for improved partnership between AI communities in Montana and the funding agencies.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/1524839915622195

    View details for Web of Science ID 000385817100017

    View details for PubMedID 26744176

  • Group Gardening in a Native American Community: A Collaborative Approach. Health promotion practice Brown, B., Dybdal, L., Noonan, C., Pedersen, M. G., Parker, M., Corcoran, M. 2020; 21 (4): 611-623


    Background. There is increasing awareness of the potential health benefits derived from gardening activities. Gardening practices are gaining momentum in Native American (NA) communities, yet no efforts have applied a community-based participatory research approach within a social-ecological model to understand opportunities and barriers for group gardening on an American Indian reservation. Objectives. The primary objective of this study was to identify influences across social-ecological levels that promote or hinder the implementation of community gardens and use of locally grown foods on the reservation; a secondary objective was to assess the feasibility of implementing a group gardening program for NA adults and potential of collecting health outcome measures. Method. Community members and academicians collaborated to develop and implement this study. The study (1) conducted interviews with key stakeholders to identify influences across social-ecological levels that promote or hinder the implementation of community gardens and using locally produced food and (2) assessed the physical and psychological well-being of NA adults participating in a group gardening feasibility study. Results. Major factors influencing using locally grown food and community gardens that emerged from nine interviews included knowledge/experience, self-efficacy, Elders, traditional ways, community values, generational gaps, and local tribal policies. Twenty NA adults with prediabetes or diabetes participated in the feasibility study. The Profile of Mood States Inventory showed consistently positive change in score for participants in the group gardening program versus the comparison group. Conclusions. This study identified key influences for growing locally grown food, and approaches for implementing group gardening programs for NA adults.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/1524839919830930

    View details for PubMedID 30786795

  • Community Readiness Model for Prevention Planning: Addressing Childhood Obesity in American Indian Reservation Communities JOURNAL OF RACIAL AND ETHNIC HEALTH DISPARITIES Harris, K., Brown, B., Shankle, L., Tryon, M., Pedersen, M., Panarella, S., Swaney, G. 2019; 6 (6): 1144-1156


    The community readiness model (CRM) is a stage-matched assessment protocol to assess community readiness to address a public health issue. To identify appropriate, culturally sensitive, and community-specific intervention strategies for preventing obesity in children, researchers, and community members formed a partnership to address childhood obesity within one American Indian Reservation.The CRM guided 30 interviews in five communities to direct the team's efforts in addressing obesity among children residing on the reservation. Interviews were scored across six dimensions on an anchored scale of one through nine; scores were then averaged to determine an overall readiness score for each community. A thematic analysis of interview responses aided in interpretation of the readiness scores and identified areas for prevention planning and intervention development.The overall community readiness score for the communities was 2.9 (SD = 0.5), which falls between 2 (denial/resistance) and 3 (vague awareness) on the anchored rating scale. The thematic analysis resulted in a hierarchal classification scheme with six broad themes that corresponded to the CRM dimensions and 13 sub-themes.The low readiness scores directed the team to implement corresponding strategies to increase awareness, while the thematic analysis suggested that action-based approaches might also be appropriate. The narrow range of scores suggest that community-wide assessments may be sufficient unless specific information is needed for each region of the community. The CRM may be an effective way to assess community readiness to address childhood obesity on an American Indian Reservation.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s40615-019-00616-6

    View details for Web of Science ID 000494049500010

    View details for PubMedID 31332689

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6832812

  • The safety of tai chi: A meta-analysis of adverse events in randomized controlled trials CONTEMPORARY CLINICAL TRIALS Cui, H., Wang, Q., Pedersen, M., Wang, Q., Lv, S., James, D., Larkey, L. 2019; 82: 85-92


    To review current publications to examine safety of tai chi (TC).Cochrane Library, EBSCO host and MEDLINE/PubMed were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) including TC as the core intervention and reporting adverse events (AEs). Data were extracted considering active vs. inactive control group comparisons and presence of an AE monitoring protocol. Meta-analyses were conducted for overall results as well as control group and reporting specific conditions.In 256 RCTs of TC, 24 met eligibility criteria (1794 participants) and were assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool. The frequency of non-serious, serious and intervention-related AEs were not found to be significantly different between TC and inactive or active control conditions. In studies with an AE monitoring protocol, more non-serious adverse events (RD = 0.05; 95% CI: 0.00, 0.10; P = 0.05) were reported for TC compared to inactive interventions. Given the higher overall AE risks related to studies of participants with heart failure, additional analyses examined this set separately. More serious AEs were found for inactive interventions compared with TC in studies with heart failure participants (RD = -0.11; 95% CI: -0.20, -0.03; P = 0.01).Findings indicate that TC does not result in more AEs than active and inactive control conditions, and produces fewer AEs than inactive control conditions for heart failure patients.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cct.2019.06.004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000475994100011

    View details for PubMedID 31229620

  • Rural Parent Support of Child Health Behavior in the Home Environment: A Qualitative Study on an American Indian Reservation. Global pediatric health Pedersen, M., Brown, B., Harris, K., France, S., Tryon, M., Cooksley, A. 2019; 6: 2333794X19847451


    Background. Obesity rates are disproportionately high among rural and American Indian (AI) children. Health behaviors contributing to child obesity are influenced by parents at home. Engaging parents remains a challenge, particularly among low-income and ethnic minority families. Aims. The aim of this study was to learn how AI parents living on a rural AI reservation support and engage with their children's nutrition and physical activity behaviors at home. Methods. Parents with children ages 6 to 12 years living on one, rural AI reservation participated. Focus groups and interviews were conducted, using a 14-question moderator's guide. A systematic, iterative content analysis was applied to the transcripts. Results. Twenty-five parents (52% AI or Alaska Native) participated in 3 focus groups (n = 17) and interviews (n = 8). Themes related to enhancers included role modeling and whole family and child-initiated activities. Barriers included resources, child safety concerns, driving distances, and competing family priorities. Themes related to strategies for change included opportunities for peer learning from other local families, creating fun, program support for all supplies and incentives, and incorporation of storytelling and multicultural activities. Discussion. This study advances knowledge to promote parental engagement with child health behavior in the home, including unique themes of inclusiveness, culture-focused, and intergenerational activities. Conclusion. Results may inform interventions seeking to engage parents living in rural and AI reservation communities in home-based child behavior change efforts.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/2333794X19847451

    View details for PubMedID 31106246

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6506919

  • Qigong/Tai Chi Easy for fatigue in breast cancer survivors: Rationale and design of a randomized clinical trial CONTEMPORARY CLINICAL TRIALS Larkey, L., Huberty, J., Pedersen, M., Weihs, K. 2016; 50: 222-228


    Breast cancer survivors (BCSs) often report fatigue that persists for years following treatment. Despite a growing body of evidence for meditative movement practices to improve symptoms among BCSs, few studies have explored using Qigong/Tai Chi to reduce fatigue. Additionally, few have examined the biological mechanisms through which fatigue may be reduced using Qigong/Tai Chi.We will recruit 250 fatigued, post-menopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 0-III), between 6months and 5years past primary treatment and randomize to a standardized Qigong/Tai Chi Easy (QG/TCE) intervention, a "sham" Qigong group (movements without a focus on the breath and meditative state) (SQG), or an educational support (ES) group. The primary outcome (fatigue), secondary outcomes (anxiety, depression, sleep quality, cognitive function, physical activity), and a biomarker of HPA axis dysregulation (diurnal cortisol) will be assessed at baseline, post-intervention and 6months postintervention, and biomarkers of inflammation (IL1ra, IL6, TNFα and INFᵧ) at pre/post-intervention. We hypothesize that QG/TCE will reduce fatigue (and improve other symptoms associated with fatigue) in BCSs experiencing persistent cancer-related fatigue more than SQG and ES. Biomarkers will be examined for relationships to changes in fatigue.Findings from this study may reveal the effects of the unique mind-body aspects of QG/TCE on fatigue in BCSs with a complex design that separates the effects of low-intensity physical activity (SQG) and social support/attention (ES) from the primary intervention. Further, results will likely contribute greater understanding of the biological mechanisms of these practices related to improved symptoms among BCSs.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cct.2016.08.002

    View details for Web of Science ID 000385321600027

    View details for PubMedID 27543065