Farm to Table Webinar

Using Science and Innovative Approaches
to Improve Children's Health

In ISCHE’s first webinar, we engaged researchers working internationally on collaborative and community-based methods to reduce children's exposure to chemicals in food, from the farm to the table.

During this webinar, Dr. Jose Ricardo Suarez and his parents Dr. Jose Suarez-Torres and Dolores Lopez presented on their multiple community-based participatory projects to reduce pesticide exposure and improve nutrition among children living in agricultural areas in Ecuador. Dr. Jane Muncke discussed the many chemical substances in food contact materials that may migrate in our food and highlighted the importance of consumer choice in order to reduce human exposures.  Dr. Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan highlighted work from her partnership with the Osage Nation in Oklahoma and their farm-to-school intervention that aims to create a sustainable food system, restore Indigenous food sovereignty, and increase fruit and vegetable intake among Osage families. After the presentations, we discussed the need for large systemic changes to improve our food system and influence behavioral change. All panelists encouraged multicultural and interdisciplinary training and engagement with communities on the ground. 

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Farm to Table: Using Science and Innovative Approaches to Improve Children's Health

Slideshow PDF Download

Slideshow PDF Download

— Presenters —

José Suárez-Torres, MD, PhD, MPH

Executive Director

Fundación Cimas del Ecuador

Quito Ecuador

The academic and research interest of Dr. Suárez Torres have been to understand the impact of socio-economic, social and cultural development and environmental changes on the health status of the population and teach the main findings at graduate and undergraduate levels. He has actively participateed in community leadership activities in disease prevention and health promotion, and to advance collaborative efforts between academia and poor communities, between governmental and non-governmental institutions, and between funding agencies and grass roots organizations, in the search for alternative development, better living and health conditions for marginal populations. Dr. Suárez-Torres is a physician and Epidemiologist with ability to conduct community base health  research, collection and analysis of data, looking to social, economic, environmental and cultural variables in the explanation of health-disease. Twelve years of experience in directing and administering nationwide studies in Ecuador. Teaching and administrative experience in Post-Graduate Programs in Public Health, Epidemiology at undergraduate and graduate level, Statistics and Research Methods in graduate programs. Environmental problems and health, within a Master's Programs in Environmental Studies. He was one of the founding members and executive Director of Fundación Cimas del Ecuador; Country Director for the Minnesota Studies in International Development of the University of Minnesota, and the Ecuadorian PI for the project Secondary Exposure to Pesticides in Children and Adolescents, University of California, San Diego.

José Ricardo Suárez, MD, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor

Division of Global Health

Department of Family Medicine and Public Health

University of California San Diego

Dr. Suarez’s research focuses on understanding the role of environmental contaminants, primarily pesticides and persistent organic pollutants, on adult cardiovascular/metabolic health and on child development including neurocognitive, mental health, endocrine and other physiologic outcomes. He is PI and founder of the Study of Secondary Exposures to Pesticides among Children and Adolescents (ESPINA) study and the Nuts and Olestra for Persistent Organic Pollutant Reduction (NO-POPs) trial, and conducts ancillary work in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Dr. Suarez is PI on several NIH and foundation grants and conducts research in the US and Latin America. Dr. Suarez has worked on children’s environmental health for 16 years, being been involved in community-based participatory processes in Ecuador with academic-community teams conducting geocoded community surveys and mental health screenings of large rural populations. Dr. Suarez is a Governor appointee to the Scientific Guidance Panel for the California Environmental Contaminants Biomonitoring Program and a Senior JPB Environmental Health Fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan

Professor of Rural Health 

Executive Director 

Center for Indigenous Health Research and Policy

Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan is an Indigenous (Choctaw) community-based participatory researcher, trained in intervention science, with the goal of research for action and social change. Dr. Jernigan received her doctorate in public health from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular disease prevention at Stanford University, where she also completed a degree in documentary filmmaking. Dr. Jernigan has been the Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-Investigator on 10 NIH-funded trials. She led the NHLBI-funded THRIVE study, the first randomized trial of healthy makeovers in tribally-owned convenience stores, and the NIMHD-funded FRESH study, a farm-to-school intervention to reduce obesity among Indigenous families. Dr. Jernigan is a Professor of Rural Health and the Director of the Center for Indigenous Health Research and Policy at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

Dolores Lopez, President

Fundación CIMAS del Ecuador

Studies in Anthropology (Catholic University of Ecuador), Bachelor of Arts (The Evergreen State College), Master of Social Science (Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences), Ph.D. (c) in Latin American Cultural Studies (Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar), founder of the Foundation Cimas del Ecuador. Co-Director of the Minnesota Studies in International Development Program, University of Minnesota.  Have developed, studies in ancestral Andean medicine, changes in food security and consumption; interdisciplinary and intercultural academic programs accredited by US universities. Have been part of local participatory processes in search for development alternatives defined by the people. Contribution in social programs and research projects in support of community planning and the local governments.

Dr. Jane Muncke

Dr. Jane Muncke is Managing Director and Chief Scientific Officer at the charitable Food Packaging Forum Foundation (FPF) in Zurich, Switzerland. FPF is a research and science communication organization focusing on chemicals in all types of food contact materials. Of critical importance is her work to highlight significant challenges in the risk assessment of food contact chemicals and how existing regulations are ineffective at protecting children’s health from exposure to food contact chemicals and how key gaps can be overcome.

Children are essential to our future and the continuation of human life. Children around the world are confronted by multiple environmental threats to health, including toxins, air pollution, psychosocial stress, and climate change. Infants and children are often exquisitely vulnerable to these threats; exposures during critical windows of vulnerability have been associated with a wide range of childhood diseases. Early life exposures can also increase the risk of chronic diseases in adulthood.