OHSU (Western Partner) Trainee Spotlight: Natalie Damen

Natalie Damen is an MCH trainee from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. She is a second-year graduate student in the combined Masters of Science in Human Nutrition and Dietetic Internship program. Natalie received her undergraduate degree in Nutrition from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.  In this blog post, she features her thesis research.

 

Eating For Two: Dietary Intake During Pregnancy and Infant Body Composition

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The question of should pregnant women really be “eating for two” has been in the media, textbooks, and even passed down through families and generations for years. The developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis have helped shape what we now know about the prenatal environment and risk of chronic disease later in life. Recent evidence has also specifically linked infant body composition at birth to an increased risk of adult chronic disease. The goal of my research is to investigate the association between maternal dietary fat intake during pregnancy and infant body composition at birth.

My research includes 79 healthy pregnant women with a singleton gestation who were enrolled at 12 to 16 weeks gestation. The 2005 Block Food Frequency questionnaire was used to assess dietary intake at 12-16 weeks, 24-28 weeks, and 37 weeks gestation. Infant anthropometry and flank skinfold measurements were taken within 24 hours of birth, and then the Catalano equation was used to calculate infant fat mass.

After analyzing preliminary results, I submitted an abstract to present at the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) Nutrition 2018 conference. My abstract was just recently accepted for a poster presentation, and I will be traveling to Boston, MA this June to share my research with other nutrition scientists. I am excited for this opportunity to network with other nutrition professionals and learn more about cutting-edge nutrition research.

Specific dietary recommendations for pregnant women for quantity and quality of dietary fat intake are lacking. I am hopeful that my results expand our current knowledge of maternal dietary intake and infant body composition, and will help inform the optimal maternal diet for beneficial birth outcomes. I am looking forward to seeing how the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans develop over the next few years to possibly see pregnant women included for the first time in the 2020-2025 guidelines.

-Natalie Damen, MCH Nutrition Trainee, Oregon Health and Science University

UC Berkeley Trainee Spotlight: Christopher Viya Chau

Chris is a trainee at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in public health, with an emphasis in public health nutrition, and is graduating in May 2018. This blog highlights his current research on childhood obesity prevention among black and white preadolescent girls.Headshot Chau Chris 9Mar17 copy

 

Continuing the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

 

While the childhood obesity rates have appeared to plateau, the current prevalence is still alarmingly high in the US. The racial disparity persists as black youth are disproportionately obese compared to their white counterparts. My current research broadly examines racial and socioeconomic disparities in cardiovascular risk among black and white girls who participated in the longitudinal National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study (NGHS). More specifically, I have investigated the modifiable risk factors associated with eating disturbances, abdominal obesity, and cardiovascular biomarkers.

 

My research in the field of obesity prevention aims to expand the current literature and inform future policy. One of my studies has examined the influence of sugary beverage intake and abdominal obesity from childhood to late adolescence. My other study aims to extend the current knowledge on the association between abdominal obesity measures and cardiovascular biomarkers among minority youth—an area with limited research using longitudinal data.

 

While my doctoral experience had focused heavily on epidemiology and statistics, my overarching goal is to conduct applied research in obesity prevention to inform public health practice, policies, and interventions among communities of color. In the future, I would like to collaborate with community stakeholders, technology experts, and behavioral economists to develop creative environmental strategies that nudge children to improve their diet and physical activity.

 

 

–Christopher Viya Chau, MCH Nutrition Trainee, University of California, Berkeley

 

 

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

Continue reading “UMN Trainee Spotlight: Rachel Wirthlin”

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Alexandra Alford

Alexandra is a trainee at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Alexandra has been funded by the MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education and Training Program since August 2015, and is currently completing her dietetic internship.

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Each semester at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, we plan and lead leadership workshops for the first-year students in the Public Health Nutrition program. These workshops allow students gain additional leadership skills and collaborate with their classmates to form better relationships. Since I am now a third-year student, I had the opportunity to lead some of the sessions.

Initially, I was a little worried about whether or not I was prepared, and if students would take me seriously since I was one of their peers. However, after looking at the materials provided and remembering my own experiences I was able to relax about the situation a little more. I also realized that this was a valuable experience and I needed to appreciate and delve into this opportunity.

I’ve helped with leadership workshops that ranged in topics from personality testing to organizational leadership skills. All have allowed me to learn more about my peers, but also a little more about myself. I was able to come full circle, from participating in the activities to leading them, which allowed for self-reflection in addition to the leadership and training skills that were gained. Again, these leadership workshops are beneficial for growth in the new graduate students and myself. They have helped me gain a better understanding and appreciation of my role as an MCH Nutrition trainee!

-Alexandra Alford, MCH Nutrition Trainee, University of Tennessee

CSU (Western Partner) Trainee Spotlight: Cameron Herritt

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Cameron is an MCH Nutrition trainee at Colorado State University.  He is currently completing his Masters of Public Health in Physical Activity and Healthy Lifestyles with a focus on adolescent nutrition.  This post entails the research that he conducts on the National School Lunch Program and the associated food waste. 

Improving NSLP Programs Through Food Waste Data Collection and Food Systems Education

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is one of the most influential food delivery programs for adolescent and child health in the United States.  Providing food for approximately 30 million children every day around the country is no small feat.  To help support that program, the USDA, along with many other organizations, conduct research to improve program efficiency, child food acceptance, and nutritional standards.  The research I have had the privilege to work with throughout my master’s program involves the selection, consumption, and waste of foods provided in the school meal program.  Improving what goes on the plate is the first critical step to improving nutrition in schools; however, the next significant step is improving student consumption of those foods.

The goal of the research project I work with, Healthy Planet Healthy Youth, is to investigate, implement and evaluate strategies for food waste reduction and food recovery in Northern Colorado public schools while concomitantly improving student diet quality.  I have had the opportunity to interview kitchen managers, nutrition services directors and other team members with influence on the management of the NSLP at the local level.  We have conducted observations in schools to assess waste levels and to determine opportunities for improvement as well as sharing techniques and best practices that decrease food waste in schools.  We are also conducting a student educational intervention to see if food systems education will influence student diet quality and/or waste volume in middle schools lunchrooms. Lastly, we are also investigating the use of share tables as a means to reduce landfill disposal of food and address child food insecurity.

Working on this research project has provided me with many skills that I plan to use in my career, including creating opportunities for community collaboration in data collection and research.  We recognize that the populations we work with are the actual experts and that first-hand opinions and experiences with the problems are critical for making effective programs and enacting positive change.  I look forward to utilizing these skills and the knowledge gained in this research to improve programs for our most vulnerable populations, most specifically, of course, our MCH populations.

-Cameron Herritt, MCH Nutrition Trainee, Colorado State University