UTK Trainee Spotlight: Marissa Black

UntitledMarissa Black is a graduate student studying Public Health Nutrition at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been an MCH trainee since January 2018. She will complete her Dietetic Internship in 2020 and hopes to work in pediatrics as a registered dietitian.

Every Spring and Fall semester, the Public Health Nutrition Program at the University of Tennessee hosts the Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium. The colloquia focus on assessing, preventing, and treating obesity in the maternal and child population. This Spring’s colloquium focused on interprofessional collaborations to promote healthy weight.

This Spring was my first opportunity to help organize a colloquium as an MCH trainee, and I was invited to promote the event on live tv. One of our former MCH Nutrition Leadership trainees who has connections with the local media was able to secure a spot on the set of Live at Five at Four, a local news segment here in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was nervous when I found out I would be on tv, but after preparing a script and rehearsing over and over again, I finally felt confident enough to deliver the information.

Being on the set of a news channel was a surreal experience. I had always imagined there would be an audience, but the studio was surprisingly quiet. The camera crew and anchors were very personable and made me feel more comfortable about speaking on live tv. I now feel like a local celebrity! I’m very thankful for the opportunity I had to practice communicating on camera.

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Marissa joined former MCH Nutrition Leadership Trainee Lee Murphy on the local news

UC Berkeley Nutrition Spotlight: Ronli Levi

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.

Among the presenters were a number of second year MCH nutrition trainees. ronli
Trainees presented on a wide range of topics, drawing on both original research and case study analyses. Examples of projects included a quantitative 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 MCH nutrition.

I was also able to present my own research findings on a study that examined the association between food security status and health care use among low income Californians. Food insecurity has been increasingly associated with the development of chronic diseases and poor disease management. Furthermore, evidence has shown many patients are being forced to choose between purchasing food or their medications. The goal of this research was to better understand the extent to which food insecurity contributes to healthcare use in order to inform policies that better align our healthcare system with social determinants of health interventions. In the future, I hope to continue exploring ways in which we can create better access to food in order to improve the overall health and wellbeing of individuals and families.

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UMN Trainee Spotlight: Rachel Wirthlin

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Rachel Wirthlin is a MCH Trainee from the University of Minnesota. She is a second-year graduate student in the Coordinated Public Health Nutrition program. She is originally from Provo, Utah and graduated in Dietetics from Brigham Young University. This post details the work she hasbeen doing this year.

This year, I have had the privilege of working with the Bloomington School District in Bloomington, MN. Recently, the state of Minnesota has called all school districts to update their wellness policies. The guidelines have been very strict and school districts are no longer allowed to bring outside food that is not Smart Snack approved.

Smart Snack is a federal program that provides guidelines for snacks that are healthy and can be given to children in schools. This means that cake, cupcakes, candy, and other unhealthy snacks are no longer allowed for birthday parties, fundraisers, or other celebrations. Bloomington school district is part of this change.

It has been interesting being involved in developing evaluations for each school, creating resources for parents and teachers on what is allowed for snacks at school, and attending committee meetings and PTA meetings with the community. I attended a PTA meeting at a school that was particularly unhappy about these changes. It was a great opportunity to witness that change, especially public health change, is not always easy like we sometimes believe it is. After clearly communicating why the policy was in place and why they needed to make changes, some parents were able to accept the upcoming changes. However, there are still parents who do not believe that this policy should be in place and share their explicit opposition with us.

As schools get used to these changes, I believe that children may be able to be healthier and learn more about nutrition and receive the nutrients they need through foods that are not high in added sugars. Policy change is difficult, and it will take many years to get parents on board, but it is a slow process, and one I believe will work out in the end!

-Rachel Wirthlin

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