Oregon Health and Science University (Western Partner) Trainee Becky Johnson

Becky Johnson is an MCH trainee from Oregon Health & 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. Becky received her undergraduate degree in Dietetics from the University of Northern Colorado and spent August 2017 working with the Lao American Nutrition Institute in Vientiane, Lao PDR (as pictured below) — a collaboration between OHSU, the Lao Government and the U.S. Government to improve the state of nutrition of Lao, especially addressing high rates of stunting and malnutrition. In this blog post, she discusses her work with an early childhood health screening event on the Oregon coast.

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A Focus on Family-Centered Care: Tillamook County’s Early Childhood Screening Fair

In April, I joined health professions trainees from both the MCH Nutrition training program and our sister program, Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND), for an early childhood health screening fair at the Tillamook County Fairgrounds. While Tillamook is likely most famous for its cheese and ice cream production, it’s also a rural county with an estimated 26,000 people located on the northwest Oregon coast.

For three days every spring parents of pre-school aged children can bring their kids to the fairgrounds to receive physical, nutrition, hearing, vision, child development, behavior, dental, speech and lead screenings at no charge. I was fortunate to be able to volunteer with the nutrition screening program for two days this year.

We saw about 40 kids, mostly between the ages of 3-5 years old, during the two-day period. At the nutrition screening, we had a representative from the Tillamook County WIC program, as most families who attend the screening event are low-income and previously or currently eligible for WIC. Oregon State University Cooperative Extension was also on hand to lead children in making their own trail mix and handing out budget-friendly recipes that can also be found on their excellent Food Hero website.

Families were asked to fill out 24-hour diet records for each child prior to the event, and as nutrition trainees our primary role was reviewing the diet records, anthropometric data, and results from iron finger prick tests with the parents and to answer any nutrition-related questions. We were able to work with Spanish-speaking families through an interpreter, and help to address nutrition-related concerns on maximizing SNAP benefits and the special concerns of children with Down syndrome and type 1 diabetes.

We also led children in an activity using laminated food cards, asking them to put together a meal using a re-creation of MyPlate. Our biggest lesson learned in working with pre-schoolers on nutrition education is their tendency to separate foods by color rather than food group, but we ended up with some fairly balanced meals nonetheless.

Overall, this was a great experience to add to our training year and I especially enjoyed being able to interact with so many families in such a short amount of time.

-Becky Johnson, MCH Nutrition Trainee, Oregon Health & Science University

UMN Trainee Spotlight: Yetunde Akingbemi and Noelle Yeo

This blog post describes the experiences of two MCH nutrition trainees, Noelle Yeo and Yetunde Akingbemi, while attending the Making Lifelong Connections meeting in Tampa, Florida this spring. Noelle and Yetunde are second year students in the coordinated MPH Nutrition program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. They have both been MCH nutrition trainees since August 2017.

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Yetunde (left) and Noelle (right) in Tampa

Making Lifelong Connections is a meeting for all MCHB trainees to connect with current and former trainees, share and learn from each others’ work, and practice and learn leadership skills. All current and former trainees are selected to attend this meeting to demonstrate a form of leadership through giving an poster or oral presentation, hosting a roundtable discussion, introducing speakers, or other forms of leadership activities. Noelle and Yetunde – along with Marissa McElrone from UTK – originally applied to attend to present their work on creating and administering this blog. We were selected to host a roundtable discussion during the meeting entitled “Leadership Colors” where we led our respective tables in completing the activity to discover our leadership styles. We discussed how to apply our various leadership styles to our current work, and also examined how our strengths could benefit different work environments during our future careers. Here is more about our experiences at MLC:

Noelle: Attending MLC this spring was a great experience. We had the opportunity to meet and learn from so many people in different disciplines of MCHB training programs. At the beginning of the meeting, we were all given a ring of cards with our information on it to hand out as we were talking to new people. It was immediately clear (as from the name of the conference) that networking would be a large part of the conference, but the cards and the activities made it easy and fun! I really enjoyed getting outside of the nutrition realm and learning about the work that current and former trainees are doing in other programs. Some of my favorite presentations were about about making public places (particularly restaurants and the Cleveland zoo) more accessible and welcoming for people with various mental abilities. We also were able to support two of our classmates from the UMN Center for Leadership in MCH who presented their work with the Lactation Advocacy Committee and researching sexual activity among LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing homelessness. Overall, the meeting was an awesome opportunity. I hope to attend next year and would encourage anyone interested in applying as well!

Yetunde: The MLC meeting far exceeded my expectations this spring. As soon as the conference began, I was astonished by the number of training programs that were represented, many of which I wasn’t aware existed! It was wonderful to meet such a wide variety of people – of different races and ethnicities – that were involved in MCH in some capacity. As was mentioned previously, the networking ring of cards was a very creative way to get to know and connect with people! Many specific moments at MLC especially stuck with me. I really liked a presentation given by a social worker on how he applied his MCH training to reduce violence at the public school at which he worked. Another was about using Mhealth interventions to improve prenatal care and birth outcomes in the US. Overall, it was clear that each speaker had a passion for the topics they were presenting, and many even told their personal stories and journeys, which was very inspiring to hear. Attending this meeting fueled my love for MCH even further, and I am already looking forward for the opportunity to attend next year! 

 

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MLC Meeting Attendees

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Marissa McElrone & Marissa Black

This blog post highlights the work of two funded MCH trainees from the University of Tennessee, Marissa McElrone and Marissa Black. McElrone (left), a funded MCH trainee since January 2016, is a PhD candidate pursing her doctoral degree in Community Nutrition. Black (right) has been a funded MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education and Training Program trainee since January 2018, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition.  This blog post discusses their trainee experiences providing cultural and linguistic competence workshops to Tennessee Title V Personnel. 

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Interactions that Make a Difference

Interactions that Make a Difference (ITMD) is a daylong cultural and linguistic competency workshopfacilitated by University of Tennessee MCH Nutrition faculty and funded trainees. ITMD workshops target Tennessee Title V Personnel from across the state focusing on enhancing personal cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. Workshop are designed to accommodate 12-15 participants who have direct interaction with clients and individuals receiving services at health departments.

Marissa McElrone: As a funded trainee I have had numerous opportunities to enhance my own cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. These experiences have enriched my passion for the subject and have even evolved into a focal point in my own research. Although my own work is incredibly rewarding, facilitating ITMD workshops across the state has allowed me to impact a much larger population. Front line staff have direct contact with various MCH populations on a daily basis. By providing cultural competency training to these individuals, ITMD has the power to improve access to culturally competent health care services for Tennessee’s MCH populations.

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Marissa McElrone facilitating the ITMD workshop for Mid Cumberland Regional Office.

Marissa Black: This summer, we traveled to the Mid Cumberland Regional Office to facilitate the ITMD workshop. As this was my first time facilitating an ITMD workshop, I was incredibly nervous! However, as the day went on and our participants began to open up about their experiences, I became more comfortable as well.

As an incoming Public Health Nutrition graduate student, I participated in a similar workshop. The cultural and linguistic competence training I received helped me understand the awareness, knowledge, and skills that are necessary to work in a cross-cultural environment. It was a great experience to use the knowledge I learned as a new student to help train Title V personnel. It was also rewarding to have important conversations about sensitive topics such as racism and stereotypes that people are often too afraid to talk about.

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Marissa Black & Marissa McElrone

This blog post highlights the work of two funded MCH trainees from the University of Tennessee, Marissa Black and Marissa McElrone. Black (left) has been a funded MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education and Training Program trainee since January 2018, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition. McElrone (right), a funded MCH trainee since January 2016, is a PhD candidate pursing her doctoral degree in Community Nutrition. This blog post discusses their involvement in a recent university-wide, public policy challenge. Black was an enrolled student on the Public Health Nutrition Policy Team, while McElrone offered teaching and mentoring as a teaching assistant for the course/challenge.

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Fresh Food for All: Improving Local MCH through Policy

The Howard Baker Center Grand Policy Challenge (HBCGPC) started in 2013, as a practical experience for University of Tennessee students to address real issues in their communities and beyond, through public policy engagement. The HBCGPC, based on the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute Policy Challenge, required students to identify, research and analyze an issue, identify and engage stakeholders, critically think as a team, and develop innovative solutions through policy. The Public Health Nutrition Policy Team’s policy, Fresh Food for All, focused on improving the 2018 WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) redemption rates in Knox County, Tennessee.

Marissa Black: Participating in the policy challenge was a rewarding experience that helped me apply the basics of policy development to an issue affecting our local MCH population. Our team consisted of students with different research interests in the fields of Public Health and Nutrition. Some members studied food insecurity, others researched gardening programs, and one member was an actual farmer who had participated in the FMNP the previous year! Having a stakeholder in our team made it easier to build connections with other stakeholders, and gave us a unique perspective on the issue.

In the beginning stages of our policy brief development, our team met with local stakeholders including WIC educators, farmers market representatives, and food policy council-members to negotiate the terms of the policy. It was exciting to bring together an inter-professional group of people with different roles in the community who were all passionate about improving the lives of WIC families. The policy challenge helped me develop skills in critical thinking, negotiation, interdisciplinary team building, and of course policy and advocacy!

Feel free to view the policy brief, video, and blog post we created for the policy challenge!

Picture1The Fresh Food for All policy group presenting at the Nutrition Education Discourse at the University of Tennessee

Marissa McElrone: During my first year of graduate school, I participated in the HBCGPC as a student enrolled in the public health nutrition policy course. My policy team’s brief entitled Feed the Garden Feed the Kids, focused on an innovative approach to incorporate urban agriculture into the USDA Summer Feeding Programs of Knoxville, Tennessee. The experience helped develop my knowledge and understanding of the policy process and how it impacts MCH populations. The experiential learning of the HBCGPC fostered critical thinking, team building, and pushed me to think of innovative ways to improve the lives of MCH populations through policy. Currently, as the teaching assistant for the public health nutrition policy course, I have the opportunity to develop and mentor other students through the same process. Not only am I strengthening the skills I fostered as an enrolled student, but I am now able to help develop others in these same leadership competencies.

 

 

 

 

 

UMN Trainee Spotlight: Megan Radamaker

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Megan Radamaker 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 Macomb, MI and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Wayne State University in Detroit. Megan served as an AmeriCorp for the Cooking Matters Program in Detroit for one year prior to starting grad school. This post details the work she has been doing this year for the MCH Nutrition training grant. 

This school year I have had the opportunity to intern at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in the Healthy Community Unit. The main project that I have worked on is creating resources for a pilot program around healthy retail. This work tied in nicely with my research assistant position from last year, which was with the STaple foods ORdinance Evaluation (STORE) study. This city wide ordinance is unique to Minneapolis and requires licensed grocery stores (including corner stores, gas stations, dollar stores, and pharmacies) to sell a certain amount of basic food items including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, eggs, and low-fat dairy. The goal of this policy is to improve food access, particularly in underserved neighborhoods and small food stores that do not currently stock these types of items. Food access is a big health equity issue in Minnesota, specifically in the Twin Cities. 

Retail stores play an important role in stocking healthy items that are both convenient and nutritious. At MDH I created a toolkit to help the grantees and store owners, that are involved with the pilot project, ease into creating healthy checkout lane(s) in their stores. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a leader in work around healthy checkout. As part of my work at MDH I collaborated with our team to create healthy checkout standards to be used for our pilot project. We considered current and related standards such as Smart Snacks and Healthy Vending Standards in creating our own standards for healthy checkout. We were conscious to what foods would be allowed or restricted within the standards along with having affordable and accessible options available. I also created a list of items that meet these standards as a starting point for store owners that is available to them as part of the toolkit. 

Through my work as a grad student, and previously through AmeriCorp, I have found that people tend to want to eat healthier, but often don’t have the access to healthy and affordable foods or the knowledge to make healthy choices on their own. Nudging is a behavioral economics theory that helps make healthy choices an easy choice for consumers. This and other marketing strategies such as tips on placement and pricing are all part of the healthy checkout pilot program at MDH. Historically, checkout lanes tend to be filled with high calorie, low nutrient foods such as candy bars, chips, and soda pops. One reason for this is that manufacturers actually purchase shelving space in these areas where consumers often make impulse buys while waiting in line. The movement of healthy checkout lanes chooses the health of the customer and the community by assisting store owners in finding ways to sell products that consumers desire, are healthy, and are profitable for the store.

 

 

 

 

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