University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH News: SPH Making an Impact Summer 2015

SPH Making an Impact Summer 2015


Developing Farm-to-Fork Report

Photo: Courtesy of President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

Improving our food systems can help support good health and nutrition, says a new report for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, written by SPH authors. "Healthy Nutrition: From Farm to Fork" gives an overview of the links between public health and the food system – from the way we grow and harvest food to how we sell and consume it. It explores the growing problem of antibiotic use for meat and poultry production and explains how highly processed foods lose important vitamins during refining. The report also offers tips for consumers to support a healthier system: Know your farmer, eat seasonally or buy frozen, avoid foods with too much pesticide residue, and reduce food waste. The report was co-authored by MPH student Jamie Bachaus (Nutritional Sciences) and Assistant Professor Jennifer Otten (Health Services).

Lobbying State Lawmakers on E-cigarettes

Several SPH students, staff, and faculty compiled research on e-cigarettes for Washington state lawmakers as they began debating a measure to tax and restrict the devices. E-cigarettes contain potentially harmful chemicals and their use tripled among high school students between 2011 and 2013, according to a white paper drafted by the SPH team. Graduate students from the Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program traveled to Olympia to lobby for e-cigarette regulations, while other SPH staff and faculty organized expert testimony for a House committee hearing on the bill. The bill was introduced by State Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, clinical instructor in Health Services. Parts of the bill passed two House committees and discussion of the measure continues.

Raising Funds for Nepalese Earthquake Survivors

SPH graduate students from Nepal helped raise nearly $17,000 for relief efforts in the wake of the devastating earthquakes there. "Every penny is worth it," says Archana Shrestha (PhD, Epidemiology 2015). She noted the cost of a typical meal in Nepal is only 20 cents. Shrestha and other members of the UW Nepalese Student Association solicited money for food, shelter and supplies. "I think this is going to fundamentally change our careers in many different ways because the priorities have changed," said Biraj Karmacharya (PhD, Epidemiology 2015), who is pursuing an MPH in Global Health.

Changing a Policy on Disability Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs now says U.S. Air Force reservists who became ill after being exposed to Agent Orange residue should be eligible for disability benefits. The reversal in policy was announced in June and came after publication of an Institute of Medicine report co-authored by Professor John Kissel (Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences). The IOM report found that reservists would have been exposed to potentially harmful chemicals while they worked inside of C-123 aircraft previously used to spray herbicides during the Vietnam Way. About 2,000 military personnel flew or worked in C-123 aircraft after the war. Before the IOM report, the VA had generally denied claims from reservists.

Influencing Voter Behavior

Two graduate students each completed five-month research projects to help King County keep people in better health and out of jail. The projects were the first domestic assignments under the newly expanded Strategic Analysis and Research Training program (START). MPH student Anne Althauser (Health Services) studied government-funded prevention initiatives around the country to learn what factors led to their approval by voters. Her research will help the county prepare its proposal to voters to support early childhood investments. Doctoral student Phillip Hwang (Epidemiology) worked on the Familiar Faces project, which aims to reduce recidivism. He researched how housing, medical coverage, mental illness, and substance abuse relate to incarceration.