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Vital Strategies Launches $3.5 Million Fellowship to Support Healthier Food Environments

Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the fellowship will fund Ph.D. candidates contributing to public policy and healthier food environment

12 November 2020 (New York, USA): As global obesity rates continue to climb in low- and middle-income countries, driving a wave of diabetes, heart disease and cancer and challenging already-overburdened health systems, Vital Strategies today announced the opening of the application for a second cohort of the Healthy Food Policy Fellowship. The Fellowship, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, will support outstanding Ph.D. candidates who are committed to pursuing a field of research that will contribute to healthier food environments through the use of public policy. Applications are available online and will close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Nov. 27, 2020.

Vital Strategies’ Healthy Food Policy Fellowship supports candidates in six countries with high obesity rates: Barbados, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico and South Africa. Through the Fellowship, top candidates who are committed to pursuing a Ph.D. in a field such as health economics, nutrition epidemiology, health behavior or law will contribute to improving food policy in their country of origin or residence. 

“With more than two billion people overweight or obese, the push to improve access to safe and nutritional food has become more urgent than ever. Yet, a dearth of research expertise to guide national policies remains a barrier to addressing this global health crisis,” said José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies, “We’re proud to be building a pipeline of future leaders to bridge the existing research gaps and guide national policies for healthier food environment in countries that need it most.”

Successful applicants are awarded a multiple-year fellowship for the duration of their Ph.D. program (up to five years) to support their studies at top universities in their home country or abroad. Some recipients may combine study in their home country with complementary coursework overseas. Strong preference is given to candidates who are committed to work in their country after they complete their program.

 “Unhealthy diets are estimated to be responsible for 11 million preventable deaths each year. As a result, governments and public health advocates are increasingly looking for research expertise to guide national food policies,” said Dr Kelly Henning, Director of Public Health at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “The Fellowship program helps create a pool of promising candidates who are qualified to conduct, analyze, and promote research that will bridge existing research gaps, guide policymakers and lead to the creation of healthier food environments in priority countries.”

In May 2020, Vital Strategies proudly announced the selection of its first cohort of Healthy Food Policy Fellows, who are currently building skills and knowledge to effectively support and defend public policies that create an equitable, accessible and healthy food environment in their home country.

“It is a fact that the advertising of sugary drinks and ultra-processed foods are influencing children and adolescents’ preferences, purchasing, and consumption. My research focuses on understanding how the exposure of the digital marketing of food and beverages is affecting children and adolescents’ decisions,” said Claudia Nieto, Healthy Food Policy Fellow and doctoral student pursuing the nutrition and population program at the Mexican National Institute of Public Health. “This evidence has the potential to contribute to regulation of the advertising act in Mexico, that currently does not cover digital media.”

Candidates who are interested in bringing an evidence-based approach to bridge critical research gaps that are a barrier to addressing global obesity, must apply by submitting the application via email to

To learn more about the Healthy Food Policy Fellowship and apply, please visit:

About Vital Strategies 

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.  To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.  

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTubeTwitter, and TikTok.

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