Students taking courses with the Program on Food Systems and Public Health examine the historical, environmental, cultural, economic, and behavioral impacts of food on health and health systems. Students can deepen their engagement by participating in the Food Policy and Obesity Prevention (FPOP) student group, which provides comprehensive extracurricular opportunities for the Columbia University Medical Center community around food access, policy, and advocacy.

The Advanced 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 provides 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. 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.

Sample Courses

Food Systems and the Health of the Public – The course provides an overview of the science, policy, politics, and economics of food systems as a critical element of public health. The course has a primary focus on the food system in the United States, but includes a global perspective.

Food, Public Health, and Social Justice – This course casts a close eye on the policies that promote healthy populations. Guest speakers—including food experts, labor advocates, scientists, members of the government, and journalists—explore the impact of health disparities, nutrition, worker rights, and climate change on access to food.

Food Security, Plant Biology, Climate Change, and Public Health – This course focuses on how CO2 and climate change alter plant biology and the subsequent consequences for human health.

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.

Confronting Obesity: Society, Structures, and Policy – Through this broad overview of the socio-cultural factors associated with the obesity epidemic, students identify promising strategies for intervention and assess multi-pronged solutions to this multi-factorial problem.

Microbiome and Health – This course provides an introduction to the microbiome and its role in human health. The concepts and methods learned in the course are applied to various topics of microbiome and health such as gastrointestinal diseases, infectious diseases, cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases and environmental health.

Food Nutrition in Complex Emergencies – Utilizing real-life scenarios and examples, students learn how to contribute to nutrition programs or nutrition assessment in emergencies, among populations that are often already undernourished.