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Sara Gable, PhD

Sara Gable

Associate Professor & State Extension Specialist
Nutrition & Exercise Physiology
Institute of Public Policy
Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs
137 Middlebush Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: (573) 882-4628
Vita (PDF)


Sara Gable has been engaged in practical and scholarly activity focused on children, families, child care, and children’s well-being since the 1980’s. In 1986, she completed an undergraduate internship at Syntex Corporation’s employee child care program in Palo Alto, CA. During her Master’s degree studies, she was a lead teacher at Utah State University’s Child Development Lab and at Penn State, her PhD research involved naturalistically observing first-born toddlers and their parents before, during, and after dinner to characterize the co-parenting relationship. Upon completing her PhD, she was a post-doc in the Psychology Department at MU, where she coordinated a federally-funded child abuse prevention demonstration project.

From 1996 to the present, she has been on the faculty at the MU, first in Human Development and Family Studies and now in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. At MU, she has conducted research about the child care workforce, modifiable factors associated with the onset and persistence of childhood obesity, and the socio-emotional and academic consequences of obesity that persists across childhood and into adolescence. Her first book, The States of Child Care: Building a Better System, was published in 2014 by Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

As a State Extension Specialist for University of Missouri Extension, she has created and taught educational programs for child care providers, served on numerous state child-care-related agency advisory boards, and assisted with the Missouri Child and Adult Care Food Program’s Eat Smart and MOve Smart initiatives. 

Currently, in partnership with the Columbia Public Schools Title I Preschool Program, she is using health-related routines to improve school readiness outcomes among at-risk preschoolers.  She and her students are implementing a physically-active, counting and set-size labeling intervention with children at-risk for poor math achievement. Additionally, from 2016-2019, Professor Gable was the Faculty Fellow in the MU Office of Research and Economic Development and provided leadership for the university’s internal funding programs.

Teaching Focus

  • NS 2222 Landscape of Obesity
  • WGST 3003 Women, Work, and Child Care


Book coverSara Gable (2014). The States of Child Care: Building a Better System. New York, NY: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

"As the U.S. economy continues to falter and families face ongoing wage stagnation and widening income inequalities, there is an urgent need for a better, integrated approach to child care. This up-to-date account of the chronic issues plaguing child care reform offers viable solutions drawn from a model state child care system in North Carolina. Original data from interdisciplinary research illustrates the complex landscape of U.S. child care, as well as the ambiguous relationship society has with the sobering statistic that 64% of women with children under six are employed and in need of reliable, high-quality care of their young children."

Read a review of The States of Child Care.