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Vital Stories

Meet the Healthy Food Policy Fellows

Vital Strategies is proud to announce the selection of three candidates as the Healthy Food Policy Fellows for this year. The selection committee reviewed the applications of 33 candidates and conducted in-person interviews with 11 shortlisted candidates before making a unanimous decision. The fellows are from countries where we focus on obesity prevention: Barbados, Mexico, and Jamaica. They will be pursuing different fields of study to bridge the research gaps and contribute to healthier food environments, through the use of the public policy, in their respective countries. 

Claudia Nieto 

Claudia Nieto is a doctoral student pursuing the nutrition and population program at the Mexican National Institute of Public Health (INSP by its acronym in Spanish). She has previously attained two master’s degrees—master’s in public health nutrition from the University of Southampton, and an M.Sc. in epidemiology from the Mexican National Autonomous University. 

Claudia is currently working as a research assistant at INSP’s research center of nutrition and health, investigating the research line of healthy food environments. She has conducted multiple research projects—assessing the nutrition content of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, sodium content of processed foods and exploring the use and understanding of different nutrition labeling systems. She participated in the International Network for Food and Obesity/NCDs Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS), which evaluates diverse health and nutrition policies. Claudia assessed the efforts of the Mexican government toward creating healthier food environments using the Healthy Food Environment Policy Index. She has also participated in working groups to develop and approve the new front-of-package nutrition labeling in Mexico (warning labels). She is widely interested in nutrition epidemiology and prevention of diet-related noncommunicable diseases. 

Her Ph.D. thesis will focus on the assessment of digital marketing of unhealthy food and beverages. This will help in understanding the tactics that the food and beverage industry uses to influence food choices and will provide recommendations to improve food marketing regulation. Her main goal is to contribute to create healthier food environments in the country through the implementation of evidence-based food policies. 

Shajoe Lake 

Shajoe Lake is pursuing a Master of Laws in global health law from Georgetown University. Previously, he obtained a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours (a J.D. equivalent summa cum laude) from The University of the West Indies (UWI) and a Legal Education Certificate from the Norman Manley Law School (NMLS). He was the recipient of multiple awards—such as the Williams, McKoy & Palmer prize for the Most Outstanding Male Graduate at NMLS, the UWI Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Leadership and The UWI Award for Outstanding Performance in Leadership and Service, among others. 

He has served as the law representative on the Guild of Students, and Director of Special Projects for the UWI Vice Chancellor’s Ambassador Corps. In 2019, Shajoe won awards for best oralist and best memorial at the local rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law moot court competition and copped the octo-finalist shield at the international round in Washington D.C. where he placed among the top 10% of all oralists. 

Shajoe has worked with NGOs on various projects related to health rights and policy and has made submissions on the policies as a member of the National Youth Parliament of Jamaica. He has worked as a research assistant to the dean of the faculty of law, where he served as an adjunct tutor of jurisprudence. Shajoe currently works with Crawford & Company and advises insurers in the U.K. and across the Caribbean on pre-litigation issues along with conducting settlement negotiations. Since being called to the bar in January 2020, he has practiced law at the private bar in civil, criminal and commercial litigation, as well as conveyancing and real estate matters.

Stephanie Whiteman

Stephanie Whiteman, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, is a 24-year-old upcoming public health researcher. Currently, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in nutritional epidemiology from the University of West Indies. As a research associate at the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre, Stephanie is working on several research projects related to the relationship between the food environment and health. She is also a fellow for Yale- Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center’s Data Sharing Work Group.

In 2016, she earned her bachelor’s degree in health science from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. She has also obtained an MPH from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados. 

Apart from her researcher roles, Stephanie is also a public health advocate. She is a youth advocate for the Healthy Caribbean Coalition and an NCD Child Young Leader. Also, she is a health technical advisor for the Reconciliation and Development Association in Cameroon. Besides her work within the health field, Stephanie is an FIH Level 1 Field Hockey Coach. She played NCAA Division 1 field hockey in the United States, and she has been part of her home country’s senior women’s national team since 2011. 

Trish Muzenda

Trish Muzenda (BSc (Hons), MPH) will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Medical Science (MRC Epidemiology Unit) at the University of Cambridge. She is currently a Junior Research Fellow at the Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Trish’s research interests are centered around understanding the interlinkages between urban environments and health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Her previous and ongoing research areas include an investigation of the tools and techniques used to map and characterize food and physical activity environments in LMIC, characterization of epidemiological tools used in measuring LMIC adolescent food and physical activity behavior, as well as analyzing the global physical activity policy environment.

It is against this research backdrop that, for her Ph.D., Trish will conduct transdisciplinary urban health research to address obesity in the context of urban food insecurity in South Africa. Specifically, exploring the influence of urban food policies and community food environments on adolescent dietary behaviour. Through her research, she hopes to collate evidence on the interlinkages between food policies, environment, and behavior. This evidence will be vital in identifying the gaps between healthy food policy design and implementation in South Africa as well as provide contextual evidence for future interventions. 

Deivis Nicolás Guzmán-Tordecilla

Deivis Nicolás Guzmán-Tordecilla has a nursing degree from Tecnologíca del Chocó University, Colombia. He has also been a recipient of the Young Researcher Fellowship. As a part of the fellowship, he worked on designing, implementing, and evaluating a cost-effective intervention that aimed to prevent high blood pressure amongst one of the most vulnerable communities of Chocó, Colombia. Also, Nicolás received a scholarship for an MPH from the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. His master’s thesis focused on conducting a mediation analysis using structural equation models to understand mechanisms that affect the pharmacological adherence to arterial hypertension in Colombia. 

He has worked on the design and impact assessments of public policies—such as taxes on sugary beverages, alcohol, and tobacco; fiscal policies; and regulation of food marketing and labeling—and measures that promote healthy food in schools. He was also an advocacy advisor for healthy food policy for Red PaPaz in Colombia, where he gained extensive experience interacting with policymakers at all levels.

Nicolás’s work has been published in journals such as The Bulletin of the World Health Organization and International Journal of Public Health. 

Last updated Feb. 24, 2021