UC Berkeley Public Health Nutrition

PHN Blog

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!

Alumni Update- Mehreen Ismail, MPH ’15

After graduating from UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health in 2015, Mehreen entered a PhD program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, where she studies how state and local-level policies affect access to SNAP and the overall social safety net. Read below for an exciting update about her recent work:


In March 2015, I used funding from the Augustus Oliver Brown Fellowship to participate in a workshop called “Feeding Cities,” hosted by Northeastern University. I presented my summer internship research project. Papers from that workshop were compiled into an edited volume, which has been published on the following website:


The book highlights policies and initiatives promoting urban food system sustainability, health, and equity. It relies on evidence from a diverse set of researchers to determine effectiveness and share best practices. I am a co-author on Chapter 6.

Without support from the PHN program, I likely would have been unable to participate in the workshop and subsequent publication. Thank you so much for facilitating everything that made my involvement possible. Also, thank you for sharing the most recent PHN newsletter; it is a wonderful way to stay connected with the program.

-Mehreen Ismail, MPH ’15

Our New Sacramento Field Study Program

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.


Student discussion in The California Endowment’s conference room

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.


Students in the California State Capitol

Alumni Update- Aileen Suzara, MPH ’15

aileenWe are excited to congratulate PHN alumna Aileen Suzara for her receipt of the 2016 Thomas Yamashita Prize. This award is granted to an activist for social change in California each year. Passionate about integrating ecological and cultural education, she is currently working to resolve health inequities faced by Filipino Americans, and has launched and supported several local initiatives.

Aileen helped start Bahay Kubo, a garden in Union City that supports youth leadership through growing and sharing healthy Filipino food, in collaboration with Filipino Advocates for Justice (FAJ). This project has placed first in the Big Ideas@Berkeley competition while she was a student. She is an advisory member to the Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity and an eco-culinary educator with Sama Sama Cooperative, which aims to “reclaim language, culture, and land-based traditions.” She also recently helped to launch a new youth-run kitchen for the Ceres Community Project. And she is developing Sariwa (which means “fresh), a sustainable Filipino food business. She developed the plan as a pop-up restaurant through Berkeley’s Eat.Think.Design health innovations course, and is now participating in the La Cocina women’s food incubator.

Aileen was recognized by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues at an award ceremony at Anna Head Alumnae Hall on October 31, 2016.