Earlier this spring, a group of 18 PHN and nutrition specialty students participated in our first-annual Sacramento field study course, a two-day field trip to our state capitol. Professor Barbara Laraia worked with Lizzie Velten, MPH ’12, from Public Health Advocates, to organize meetings with local experts in nutrition and health policy and advocacy.
To begin the first day, Lizzie presented lectures on the state policy process and policy advocacy. Students then heard about “A Day in the Life of a Public Health Advocate” from a panel including alumni Justin Rausa and Tia Shimada. They then met with Ashley Rosales from the California Dairy Council to learn about her role in providing nutrition education. They walked to the offices of the California Department of Public Health to meet with several representatives to learn about epidemiology, WIC, and nutrition education. To finish the first day, they learned about “Innovations in School Meal Programs” from Michael Danzik and Desiree Rojo from the Department of Education.
A “Meet and Greet with Health Lobbyists” kicked off their second day in Sacramento as they learned about the role of lobbyists and the challenges they face in influencing policy. Students then walked to the Capitol to meet with Senator Bill Monning and Assemblymember Rob Bonta, receive a tour of the building, and possibly even drop in to their local representatives’ offices. Students had plenty of time to discuss their questions and ideas throughout the day.
To follow this experience, students were asked to write a paper analyzing a bill that passed through the Legislature in one of the last two cycles and discuss its passage and progress of implementation. They also wrote op-eds, directed at local newspapers, to emphasize the timeliness of their bill. This was a great opportunity to complement what the students have learned in other classes and their on-campus Nutrition Policies and Programs class, as well as build connections for future career pursuits. Thank you to our excellent speakers and panelists, and to The California Endowment for graciously letting us use your conference room. We so enjoyed planning this trip for students and we look forward to organizing and even improving upon it in the future.