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Vital Stories

Meet the Healthy Food Policy Fellows

Vital Strategies Healthy Food Policy Fellowship currently has seven fellows pursuing individual fields of study across the globe to bridge the research gaps and contribute to healthier food environments, through the use of the public policy, in their respective countries. To learn more about the food policy program and fellowship, please visit here

Joana Indjaian Cruz

Joana Indjaian Cruz is pursuing a Ph.D. in Law and Healthy Food Regulatory Policies (in Latin America) at Nova University of Lisbon’s School of Law.  She has previously graduated with a degree in Master of Laws in human rights from São Paulo University, before which she pursued Bachelor of Laws from the Pontifical Catholic University, São Paulo.

She is currently a researcher at the Schools of Medicine and Public Health at São Paulo University. Joana has ten years of work experience in research, law, and policy and has worked with multiple non-profit civil society organizations and governments. 

For almost four years, Joana worked for the Alliance of Tobacco Control and Health Promotion legal team as a lawyer in the obesity prevention program, acting in strategic litigation and advocacy to promote healthy food policy. She was also a counselor at Brazil’s National Health Council and a member of the Supplementary Health Chamber of Brazil. She has participated in several national and international events about obesity prevention and tobacco control.

She wants to intertwine her Ph.D. with her background in policy work around right to health, regulations, consumer defense and third sector law to improve the food environment in Brazil.

Deivis Nicolás Guzmán-Tordecilla

Deivis Nicolás Guzmán-Tordecilla is pursuing a Ph.D. in Health Systems at the Johns Hopkins University. He is currently working on an advisory team comprised of researchers at Johns Hopkins and a local university that aims to provide the Colombian Ministry of Health with sound technical advice on managing the pandemic.

Previously, he obtained 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. 

Alice Scaria Khan

Alice Scaria Khan is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Health at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. She has earned two undergraduate degrees: in Computer Science from the University of Transkei, and in Food and Nutrition (cum laude) from the University of South Africa. She holds a master’s in Public Health Nutrition from the University of the Western Cape. 

Alice is currently a researcher at the School of Public Health and DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape. Her research focuses on the food environment and socioeconomic determinants that hamper a healthy food environment. She has worked on analyzing child-directed marketing strategies used on South African breakfast cereals packaging and assessing the cereals’ nutritional content. She was further involved in the nutrition facts panel project supporting the front-of-pack label research. She is currently involved in researching the extent of social media marketing of foods and beverages through influencers.

Her Ph.D. thesis will explore food marketing in the school environment and adolescents’ exposure to and perceptions of marketing. Her research will make recommendations on marketing strategies used by the food and beverage industry and inform food policies that enable a healthy food environment in South Africa.

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.

Trish Muzenda

Trish Muzenda (BSc (Hons), MPH) will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Medical Science (MRC Epidemiology Unit) at the University of Cambridge. 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 work at the Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity Unit (University of Cape Town), includes 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 behavior. 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.

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. 

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. 

Last updated November, 2021