UC Berkeley Public Health Nutrition

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On April 18, 2018, PHN students, Kristal Caballero and Zach Rickrode-Fernandez joined public health advocates from across the state in Sacramento to advocate for better healthy food and physical activity environments across California. The first half of the day focused on building effective advocacy skills and networking with other community leaders. The second half of the day was dedicated to meeting with state representatives to discuss several upcoming nutrition focused bills, including bills that support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, access to healthy foods and free and reduced priced meals in Charter schools.

PHN on the Conference Circuit 2018

Nutrition Leadership Network 2018

In April 2018, seven UC Berkeley Maternal Child Health Nutrition trainees traveled to Southern California to participate in the annual Western Maternal Child Health Nutrition Leadership Network (NLN) meeting. The network brings together public health nutrition leaders, University partners and trainees from the 13 states west of the Rockies, including Hawaii and Alaska.  The purpose of the NLN is to provide leadership training, support, technical assistance and opportunities for collaborative learning so that the practice of public health nutrition is strengthened across the western states. During this meeting, attendees learned about ways to leverage partnerships and scale up interventions to enhance obesity and nutrition related policies. They also learned valuable negotiation skills. Speakers included the Nutrition Policy Institute’s, Lorrene Ritchie, Jessie Jones Smith from the University of Washington and Angie Tagtow, the Former Executive Director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Programs, United States Department of Agriculture.


Dr. Barbara Laraia and MCH trainees at the conference

Making Lifelong Connections Conference 2018

In April 2018, two Maternal Child Health Nutrition trainees from the PHN program traveled to Tampa, Florida to participate in the Making Lifelong Connections conference, which brings together current and former trainees from all of the Maternal Child Health Bureau funded training programs. While there, the students participated in interactive leadership activities and learned more about the research being conducted by other trainees across the country. Chris Chau, a Doctorate of Public Health student and MCH trainee got the opportunity to present his research on sugar-sweetened beverage intake and obesity among adolescent girls. First year PHN student, Katie Berns also got the opportunity to facilitate a group workshop for other trainees.


DrPH student, Chris Chau, presenting his research at MLC 2018


PHN Capstone Presentations 2018

At the end of February, the second year Public Health Nutrition students had the opportunity to present their final capstone projects. Over the course of the last year, students have been working tirelessly with faculty, preceptors, and one another to conduct literature reviews, analyze data and develop a framework of recommendations for complex Public Health Nutrition problems.

Students presented on a wide range of topics, drawing on both original research and case study analyses. Examples of projects included a quantitative, cross-sectional analysis of the diet quality of breakfast in school-aged children before and after the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, a global case study on the maternal nutrition needs of Syrian refugees and an examination of the association between environmental risk factors and BMI. After many months of work, it was inspiring to hear all of the research being done on so many different aspects of public health nutrition.

BFI Introduces the Just Food Podcast Series

The Berkeley Food Institute in partnership with the Berkeley Advanced Media Institute at the Graduate School of Journalism recently introduced the Just Food Podcast, a new 6-part podcast series about “cultivating justice and health.” Their most recent episode, “CalFresh on Campus: Breaking the Stigma of Food Insecurity” highlights the issues of hunger among students, and some of the steps UC Berkeley and the California government have taken in recent years to combat this issue.

A recent report found that 39% of UC Berkeley students are food insecure and that 23% of graduate students are food insecure. This prompted Berkeley students, the administration and others around the state to start advocating for changes to California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program, known as CalFresh in California. In 2014, AB 1930 passed, which allows all students who receive work-study to automatically qualify for CalFresh benefits. Other changes have made around the UC Berkeley to promote access to food, including the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, which provides nutritious foods to students in need. According to Ruben Canedo, chair of the Basic Needs Committee at Berkeley, “In the same way that tutoring is a tool for success, so is a food pantry. So are our classes. So is the food assistance program. Everything.”

Check out the full episode, and other episodes from this series here.

2017 School of Public Health Dean’s Speaker Series


This Fall, Dr. Lia Fernald and Dr. Kris Madsen participated in two UC Berkeley School of Public Health Dean’s Speaker Series events. In August, Dr. Fernald moderated a discussion with Dr. Merson, director of the Duke Global Health Institute and Dr. Amie Batson, Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President of PATH about their report to the federal government on the future role of the U.S. in global health.  The discussion focused on highlights from the report, including several key priority areas for action. Dr. Fernald provided a conceptual model to frame these action areas, and noted the report’s recommendation to enable innovation by thinking about new ways of doing business globally.

In September, Dr. Kris Madsen participated on a panel, along with Janet King, senior scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute; Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, senior scientist and Dolores Jordan Endowed Chair at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, professor of medicine at UCSF, and adjunct professor of nutritional sciences at UC Berkeley; and Gary Taubes, cofounder and senior scientific advisor of the Nutrition Science Initiative to discuss the impact that sugar is having on our health. The panel discussed the mounting evidence around the role that sugar plays in chronic disease risk, and discussed what can be done to decrease the amount of added sugar in our diets. Dr. Madsen made a case for the soda tax as a public health tool, and discussed some of the promising early evidence from models already in existence. She pointed to the fact that Mexico is expected to save over a billion dollars on healthcare costs and prevent 200,000 cases of obesity over the next 10 years. She noted that soda taxes not only reduce added sugar consumption, but that they are “the one public health intervention that actually raises money.”

You can watch the video from both events here!

Attending the 11th Annual Sugar, Stress, Environment & Weight Symposium

In October 2017, UC Berkeley PHN students attended the annual Sugar, Stress, Environment & Weight Symposium (SSEW), presented by the UCSF Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST) and the UCLA School of Law Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy. The SSEW Initiative is a collaborative group of cross-UC Campus research scientists and California policy makers whose goal is to reduce the prevalence and adverse consequences of obesity and focus on the the role of social disadvantage, sugar, and stress.

The symposium brought together researchers, health professionals, and influential policy makers to discuss the latest research on the intersection of food insecurity, stress and obesity. Speakers included: Dr. Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH and Erika Brown, MPH of UC Berkeley; Lorrene Ritchie, PhD, RD and Suzanna Martinez, PhD of the Nutrition Policy Institute; Kelly Brownell of Duke University; Cindy Leung, ScD, MPH of University of Michigan and UCSF; David Ludwig, MD, PhD of Harvard; Hilary Seligman, MD of UCSF; and many more! The students were able to learn and network with leading experts in the field. You can view a recording from the symposium using the following link: https://www.pscp.tv/ssewscience/1jMKgdVBmbyGL

My summer learning about food and nutrition policy

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Kristal Caballero, second year PHN student

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work with the California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA), a statewide policy and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of low-income Californians by increasing their access to nutritious, affordable food.

During my internship, I learned a lot about the legislative process, and had the opportunity to participate in direct advocacy and lobbying in Sacramento. I also participated in media advocacy by assisting CFPA in the publication of their policy reports. Later in the summer, I participated in CFPA’s annual policy development process, in which I directly interviewed anti-hunger and anti-poverty partners all across the state to hear about their main priorities and issues. From there, I helped CFPA compile the results of those interviews and determine their next Legislative Agenda. Overall throughout the summer, I learned about the particular policy levers needed to influence policy change, and also about the importance of listening and partnership building in advocacy. It was an amazing summer full of learning and growth, and I definitely left with the knowledge and skills I was hoping to gain in the MPH program (as well as the confidence to use them!).