Food Systems and Public Health

The Certificate in Food Systems and Public Health is a specialization available to enrolled MPH students who are interested in gaining foundational knowledge and understanding of the role that food plays in public health. This certificate would provide students with the perspectives and skills to influence the evolving relationship between food and public health providing coursework that investigates the historical, environmental, cultural, economic, and behavioral impacts of food on health and health systems.  The certificate will prepare MPH students to understand the scientific research methods required to examine the food landscape through a public health framework.  Students will also investigate the interconnectedness of food to income inequality, the global economy, climate change and health policy and law.

Students will complete required courses and one selective course from an approved list of four courses at the Mailman School of Public Health. These will include foundational courses in public health, food policy and justice, epidemiology and nutrition, and additional courses on topics from emergency management to food law.  Aimed at educating current MPH students interested in food systems, students will be equipped to understand the foundations of health and disease from a food science perspective, to design better food systems, and to advocate for improved policies and practices that integrate food and public health.

Admissions Eligibility

The Certificate in Food Systems and Public Health is open to Columbia MPH students in:

The Competencies for this Certificate are as follows:

  1. Identify the significance of food as a major determinant of the public’s health in the United States and globally.   
  2. Analyze how poverty, marketing, and policy affect food availability, access, and choice.   
  3. Analyze social, behavioral and environmental challenges to improving nutrition and health.    
  4. Define and describe a food system, and interrelationships of food systems with other complex adaptive systems, with a primary focus on agriculture and climate change.   
  5. Propose effective public health evaluations and responses to the impact of rising carbon dioxide levels and an uncertain climate on the nutritional content of food, food safety, and chemical, pathogenic vulnerabilities.

Learn More

Visit the Certificates Database to learn more about core and credit requirements.

Sample Courses

The Food Justice Movement: What Does it Mean for Public Health?

This course will explore the history and the complex and evolving relationship between food, our environment, social justice and public health. It will provide a context to understand the historical, behavioral, cultural, and environmental impacts of food and its integration with population health, the health system, the global economy, climate change, income inequality, and society at large. Students will make connections among the food system, public health, and the development and implementation of health policy. Students will combine course material and their own exploration of these topics into a practical exercise by developing real solutions alongside community-based organizations working for food justice, as part of a semester-long group project.

Nutritional Epidemiology

The course introduces students to key concepts and methods in Nutritional Epidemiology to equip them with the tools to design, analyze, interpret, and critically evaluate population-based nutrition research. There is an increasing awareness that food and nutrition play an important role in the etiology of disease states. However, study limitations pose challenges for the interpretation and implementation of many findings. Examples from the literature will be used to teach students about various aspects of nutritional epidemiology, including assessment of dietary intake, physical activity, and body composition; and issues in the analysis and interpretation of nutritional data in epidemiological studies.

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