UC Berkeley Public Health Nutrition

PHN Blog

Pedro Argueta ’17 Presents at Childhood Obesity Conference

Shortly after graduating from our program, Pedro Argueta participated in the biennial Childhood Obesity Conference. He presented his own research about risk factors for obesity among autistic children and enjoyed learning about topics such as healthy retail and improving nutrition for immigrant communities. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Pedro!


Pedro Argueta MPH ’17

The biennial 2017 Childhood Obesity Conference in San Diego brought together health professionals from around the country to discuss strategies to improve the health of children and adolescents through healthy eating and physical activity. This year’s theme focused on addressing health disparities- which included a session on defining racism and institutional racism by Camara Jones and Xavier Morales, who both have worked on issues surrounding these social determinants of health. The entire session was devoted to defining these terms, but I had hoped to learn more about next steps to move the agenda of addressing institutional racism in health organizations. Since the majority of attendants were white, I hope the next conference includes this component.

Posters sessions included work and research from across the country that addresses issues surrounding childhood obesity. These included removing fast food and soda ads near schools, promoting healthy eating inside supermarkets through health messages, proposing new methods for measuring physical activity in school, and, of course, the one I presented called “Risk Factors Associated with Obesity among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the US.” My poster provided a review of literature of possible risk factors for overweight or obese among children with autism compared to their typically developing counterparts. Some of those risk factors include more physical inactivity, unhealthy eating patterns, involuntary weight gain from medication side effects, and lack of sleep. Therefore, interventions that address obesity in this population should account for these factors and be tailored accordingly. The results and conclusions from my literature review sparked discussion and questions from fellow attendants. I could not answer all of their questions, but that is one of the benefits of attending conferences such as these- an opportunity to learn from one another. I got to network with professionals that I would have not been able to in the larger group setting due to the large number of attendants. It felt like having my LinkedIn profile printed in large paper for everyone to see. Presenting at such a conference is an experience I recommend anyone that has not done so.

Of the sessions, a number of them stood out for providing a fresh insight to how we address health and nutrition issues in our communities. The “Best Practices, Opportunities, and Tensions in Healthy Retail Interventions” was led by a renowned group of researchers that have been involved in policies about healthy retail. Ample energy and money continues to be spent on changing the retail environment to promote the purchase of fruits and vegetables. Because the ultimate factor that influences the purchase of fruits and vegetables is cost, healthy messages inside the store provide little motivation. Further research is needed about what is most motivating, but it does shed light into the bigger issue and hopefully this will push organizations to tackle low fruit and vegetable intake through other efforts.

The second session was titled “Immigrants’ Access to Nutrition and Other Healthcare Benefits.” Due to the recent political climate, numerous immigrants in the US are scared of being deported. As a result, the immigrant community has stopped using some health services. The best option outlined by the panel suggested that immigrants should have access to a lawyer so they are aware of their rights. I thought they could have more thoroughly addressed the case for undocumented immigrants.

The battle against childhood obesity becomes complex as new research pinpoints additional factors that may be associated with weight gain. As the theme of this conference highlighted, health disparities must be addressed in order to see results.

Educational Interventions To Promote Literacy in Kenya

Over this past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in Encouraging Multilingual Early Reading As a Groundwork for Education (EMERGE), a project conducted by the World Bank and our own Dr. Lia Fernald. With funding from the Augustus Oliver Brown Fellowship, I was able to travel to Kisumu, Kenya to collect and analyze baseline data.

The study focuses on providing different interventions to randomly selected children that have yet to start grade-level schooling. These interventions aim to improve literacy and cognitive function, and their efficacy will be evaluated over the next few years. I hope to see this project develop over the next few years as I continue working on it throughout my MPH program.

The experience and my education at UC Berkeley have gone hand in hand; without the preparation in both methods and critical analysis from my public health classes, I would not have been able to successfully contribute to this research project. Similarly, the experience abroad has added a new depth of understanding and application to each of my classes, and I am so thankful for the hands-on, self-directed learning that makes UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health so unique.


Lin Stoler, First Year PHN Student

Fall 2017 PHN Potluck


Group Photo

Dr. Kris Madsen hosted students and faculty at her home for a potluck to kick off the Fall semester and welcome in the new school year. This was an opportunity for new and returning students to get to know one another, meet with faculty and catch up on everyone’s summer activities. Everyone enjoyed the delicious food (even Charlie, Dr. Madsen’s PHN pooch!), and are looking forward to a great year ahead.




PHN Soirée Spring 2017

The PHN department, along with our students’ friends and family members, had the pleasure of watching our second-year students present their capstone projects on Tuesday, April 4th. Many of them began their projects a year ago and have been working tirelessly with our faculty, preceptors, and one another to conduct literature reviews and analyze their results. Final reports are due this week, so we heard teasers for what will be the final products of their projects.

Examples of students’ project topics included a statistical analysis of dietary patterns and cardiovascular disease risk among women with HIV, an evaluation plan for plate waste in school cafeterias in Oakland, a media advocacy plan for a sugar-sweetened beverage tax in Richmond. Topics were as diverse as ever, and our audience was engaged and inquisitive throughout the three-hour event. Thank you to all of the faculty and preceptors who helped them review these projects and presentations. We hope the students have enjoyed and learned from this process and we look forward to celebrating the end of the year with them soon. .


Second-year PHN students, after presenting their capstone projects

Discussion with Author Kimberly Seals Allers

On January 31st, our students and faculty had the opportunity to meet with Image result for big let downauthor Kimberly Seals Allers to discuss her new book, The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding. This discussion was cohosted by the Public Health Nutrition and Maternal and Child Health programs. We greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn from her about topics such as the influence of formula companies, workplace policies, chemicals in plastic pumps, and more. You can listen to the presentation and view the Powerpoint presentation on Youtube (and below).

In her new book, Ms. Allers analyzes the many influences on the culture of breastfeeding in the US. She expands from individual determinants of breastfeeding behavior and addressed sociological, industrial, and political influences. She includes a mix of research and personal stories about these barriers to breastfeeding and offers ways that we in public health can support healthy families beginning in infancy.

Ms. Allers earned her BA in Journalism from NYU and her MS in Journalism from Columbia. She has written for many magazines, newspapers, and websites and has appeared on several major news networks. She founded and serves as Editor-in-Chief for The Mocha Manual Company, Inc. to provide pregnancy and parenting support for black families. She was named as an IATP Food and Community Fellow, funded by the Kellogg Foundation, charged with increasing awareness and engagement around “the first food”—breast milk, in vulnerable communities. She was also selected by the US Breastfeeding Committee as a lead commentator for the nationwide “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” federal campaign. She is a loving mother of two, living in New York. Throughout her career and life, she aims to “shift the experience of womankind and motherhood for all.” We are thankful for her work, insight, and passion.




Attending The 8th Annual COAST/SSEW Symposium

In October 2016, the PHN Program, supported by funds from the MCHB Nutrition Training Program, co-hosted a symposium on food and addiction at the UCSF Laurel Heights campus, along with the UC Office of the President (UCOP), UCSF’s Sugar, Stress, Environment, & Weight Center (SSEW), and the UCSF Nutrition & Obesity Research Center (NORC). Together, the Sugar, Stress, Environment and Weight (SSEW) Center aims to reduce the prevalence and adverse consequences of obesity, focusing on the role of social disadvantage, sugar, and stress on diet and obesity.

COAST Smposium participants photo

2016 Symposium Attendees

The symposium brought together researchers, health professionals, and influential policy makers to explore the intersections of biology, behavior, food and addiction, and how to prevent food addiction across the lifespan for individuals and communities through academically inspired activism, institutional interventions, and public policy.The symposium opening remarks will be delivered by UC President Janet Napolitano. Expert lecturers included Anisha Patel, MD; David Kessler, MD; Dean Schillinger, MD and Robert Lustig, MD of UCSF; Lorrene Ritchie, PhD, RD and Patricia Crawford DrPH, RD of UCB; Ashley Gearhardt, PhD of University of Michigan; Keri Boutelle, PhD of UCSD; Mark Gold, MD; and Michael Roberts, JD of UCLA. Students were also eligible apply to participate as an SSEW fellow to present a poster, participate in expert-led focus group discussion on collaborative inter-campus research and initiatives, and participate in an inter-campus speed networking event facilitated by the UCSF Research Development Office.
A recording from the symposium can be viewed at the following link: http://www.uctv.tv/coast/.


PHN Alumna Hannah Thompson Meets Steph Curry!

Hannah Thompson

This fall, Hannah, PhD, MPH was part of a small group of health advocates and film makers who won a contest sponsored by Brita, in collaboration with Oakland Warriors basketball star, Stephen Curry and Splash Studio. To win the contest, the group created a winning commercial, complete with a cameo by Steph Curry, that shows water is the healthiest beverage for all! Hannah flew to LA to watch the filming of the commercial, which is currently airing during the 2016-2017 basketball season, and even got to take a photo with the star!

Check out the video!