Barry is the W. R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Barry developed the concept of the Nutrition Transition—the study of the dynamic shifts in our environment and the way they affect dietary intake, physical activity patterns and trends, and obesity and other nutrition-related non-communicable diseases.
His research program focuses globally on understanding the shifts in stages of the transition and programs and policies to improve the population health linked with this transition. He is actively involved in work on the program and policy design and evaluation in the United States and globally, including collaborative research with colleagues in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and South Africa. He has a PhD in economics. Barry has received many major awards for his global contributions, including the 2016 World Obesity Society: Population Science and Public Health Award for top global public health researcher, the UK Rank Science Prize, and the Friends of Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award of the Obesity Society.