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Meet the Healthy Food Policy Fellows

Vital Strategies Healthy Food Policy Fellowship currently has eleven 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

Rasheed Perry 

Rasheed Perry is an early career researcher and academic with a passion for impactful research, policy development and advocacy. He is currently pursuing the Ph.D. in Nutrition and Dietetics at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at the New York University. His research interest focuses on policy and economic strategies to improve health outcomes among vulnerable groups including infant and young children, socio-economically disadvantaged groups and individuals living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Rasheed has worked as An Assistant Lecturer, Lecturer, Wellness Centre Coordinator and Food Scientist within the School of Allied Health and Wellness, College of Health Sciences at the University of Technology Jamaica. He previously obtained a BSc n Dietetics and Nutrition and Msc in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Technology Jamaica.

Rasheed has worked on several research projects, most recently the Improving Household Nutrition Security and Public Health in CARICOM Project and National Front of Package Labelling Jamaica Project. He has four published scientific articles, two of which he was first author in the Journal of Food security and Journal of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice on the topics of Food Security and Complementary Feeding.

Shaniek Parks

Shaniek Parks, a communications expert working in the international health sector, is pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy in Population Health at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK). Her research looks at the impact of digital communications on food decision-making among young adults in her home country, Jamaica, and the UK.

Shaniek possesses over 12 years of experience in strategic communications, digital communications, reputation and stakeholder management, media relations and messaging. She previously obtained a Master of Arts in International Communications from the University of Leeds in the UK and a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Communication from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

In her most recent role, Shaniek worked as the Communications Consultant at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Office serving Jamaica, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Ornella Moreno-Mattar

Ornella is pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona and is currently a researcher for the Health Inequalities Research Group (GREDS). She has a bachelor’s degree in health administration from the University of Antioquia (Colombia). 

She has worked in different government institutions in Colombia, such as the Ministry of Health, the Food and Drug Surveillance Institute – INVIMA, the Institute for Health Technology Assessment – IETS and, more recently, in the Directorate of Regulation of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism. Her contribution has always been related to citizen participation, the formulation of health policies, and the development and analysis of health economics tools. 

Ornella’s doctoral research is focused on analyzing the cost-equity of interventions aimed at reducing obesity and overweight.

Jenny Faisury Peña Varón

Jenny Faisury Peña Varón is pursuing a Ph.D. in Health at the Universidad del Valle, Colombia. She graduated with a master’s degree in Public Health and previously obtained a degree in geography with emphasis in land use planning. 

She is currently a researcher at the School of Public Health of the Universidad del Valle, where she has participated in different research projects related to Food Security and Food Systems. Jenny also works as an advisor in the development of strategies to improve food security in the region where she lives and is an activist in defense of the right to food. 

Her doctoral research will focus on understanding the relationship between the city’s land use planning and the functioning of its food system. The results of her research will be an input for decision-making on the sustainable development of urban areas that favor the health of communities.

Joana Indjaian Cruz

Joana Indjaian Cruz is pursuing a Ph.D. in Law and Healthy Food Regulatory Policies 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 has experience as a researcher at the Schools of Medicine and Public Health at São Paulo University. Joana has eleven years of work experience in research, law, and policy and has worked with multiple non-profit civil society organizations and governments. 

For five 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. 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 at the University of the Western Cape. Her research focuses on the food environment and the 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 researching the extent of social media marketing of foods and beverages through influencers and in the nutrition facts panel project supporting the front-of-pack label research. 

Her Ph.D. thesis will explore food marketing exposure of adolescent learners in South Africa and the influence on their food choices. 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 is an international lawyer. He currently works with the Global Center for Legal Innovation in Food Environments at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University. His research analyzes legal and regulatory approaches to non-communicable diseases, including human rights approaches to regulating food environments and addressing conflicts of interests in public policy at the domestic, regional, and global levels. 

Previously, he worked in international consulting, negotiating personal injury awards and advising U.S., U.K. and Caribbean insurers on product liability, employer’s liability, and public liability claims, including workplace occupational health and safety and manufacturers’ negligence. Shajoe has also counseled international organizations, nonprofits, and governments on legal strategies to advance health justice for infectious diseases. 

Shajoe holds a Bachelor of Laws with first class honors from University of the West Indies and a Master of Laws in global health law from Georgetown University, where he was awarded the Global Health Law Scholarship and CALI Excellence for the Future Award for Advanced Scholarly Writing. Shajoe obtained his Legal Education Certificate from the Norman Manley Law School, graduating as the top performing male student. He is a member of the Jamaican Bar and eligible to practice in 15 Caribbean Countries.

Trish Muzenda

Trish Muzenda is a PhD student in the Global Diet and Physical Activity Research Group at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Her research seeks to understand how governance, environmental and consumer factors influence the obesogenicity of the informal food retail sector in low- and middle-income country (LMIC) contexts.

Trish holds a BSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology (Rhodes University, South Africa), BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry (Rhodes University), and a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology (University of Cape Town, South Africa). Prior to commencing her PhD, Trish was a Junior Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town’s Research Initiative for Cities Health and Equity (RICHE). There she worked on a projects exploring the evolution of global physical activity policies between 2000 and 2019a literature review of the tools and techniques used to map and characterize food and physical activity environments in LMICsand a synthesis of the epidemiological tools used in measuring LMIC adolescent food and physical activity behavior.

Trish’s work is motivated by the recognition that sub-Saharan Africa faces a myriad of interconnected and complex urban health challenges that require transdisciplinary and intersectoral efforts to understand their causes whilst simultaneously developing feasible solutions to address them. 

Claudia Nieto

Claudia Nieto is a PhD candidate of the nutrition and population program at the Mexican National Institute of Public Health. She has previously attained two master’s degrees—Public Health Nutrition from the University of Southampton, and Epidemiology from the Mexican National Autonomous University.   

She has participated multiple research projects—assessing the nutrition content of ultra-processed foods and exploring the understanding of different nutrition labeling systems. She has been a consultant for the Pan American Health Organization regarding the sodium targets for Latin America. She has participated in the International Network for Food and Obesity/NCDs Research, Monitoring and Action Support. She 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 the new front-of-package nutrition labeling in Mexico (warning labels). 

Her Ph.D. thesis will focus on the assessment of digital food marketing. 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 currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of West Indies, Cave Hill. In 2016, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Health Science from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. She has also obtained a Master of Public Health from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.  

As a research associate at the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre, Stephanie has worked on several research projects related to the relationship between the food environment, physical activity and chronic non-communicable diseases. Stephanie is also a former fellow of Yale Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center for Health Disparities Research focused on Precision Medicine (Yale-TCC).  

Apart from her researcher roles, Stephanie is also a public health and strong youth advocate. She is an advocate for the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, Healthy Caribbean Youth and an NCD Child Young Leader. 

Last updated October, 2022