- Author: Liz Sizensky
- Author: Ann Brody Guy
There are direct lines from her resume to major policy advances in nutrition education and public health. Crawford's research and outreach have influenced nutrition policies and trends to improve the food environment at child care centers and schools, promote more nutritious food in programs serving low-income families and advance education and communication.
Since earning her master's degree in public health nutrition and her registered dietician credential at UC Berkeley in 1972, Crawford has been a force of unceasing productivity as a researcher, evaluator, educator and leader. Early in her career, she managed the nation's largest biracial study of girls' health, the National Growth and Health Study. During the course of this long-term study, she went back to school to obtain her doctorate in public health nutrition.
She soon was hired as the first UC Cooperative Extension nutrition and obesity prevention specialist and she co-founded and directed UC Berkeley's Atkins Center for Weight and Health. The center focused largely on food and nutrition policy to improve the health of children, and shared research results with community health workers. Local and state health professionals found an extension partner eager to conduct research that would answer important questions and provide real-world solutions, productively linking research, policy and practice.
The Center for Weight and Health, which in 2015 merged with the UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), became known for rigorous research that is aligned with UC ANR's core values of addressing food security, obesity, socioeconomically based health disparities, and access to healthy foods. After the merger, Crawford became NPI's senior director of research, working with her long-time collaborator, NPI Director Lorrene Ritchie.
Ritchie stated that in addition to Crawford's academic achievements, she is the consummate mentor — a “career godmother” for Ritchie and many others.
“Pat has an uncanny ability of knowing what you are good at — even before you yourself do — and mentoring you to build on that strength,” Ritchie said. “Likewise, she has an uncanny ability to know your weaknesses, and help you to overcome those by developing new skills or pairing you with others who have those skills.”
Although Crawford would be quick to tell you that her work is collaborative, she has been a researcher or important influence on nearly every population-based nutrition policy success in the past four decades. She has served as president of the California Nutrition Council and on countless state and national committees and task forces focused on improving health and addressing obesity, including being an advisor to California's Let's Get Healthy Task Force. Most recently, she co-authored a seminal Healthy People 2020 report for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, on model policies to increase fruit and vegetable intake in the population.
To honor the work that Crawford does and to continue this kind of work, NPI has established a student fellowship fund to train the next generation of students on nutrition research and its policy impacts.
Read more about Crawford's accomplishments.
The conference was hosted by UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), California Department of Public Health, California Department of Education, the California Endowment and Kaiser Permanente.
NPI hosted a preconference workshop on June 29 to bridge the gap between research and policy regarding the federal nutrition assistance programs and the Dietary Guidelines, which reach more Americans than any other nutrition policy.
At the opening plenary, Chelsea Clinton, vice president of The Clinton Foundation, talked about projects her family's foundation is involved in to improve children's health and literacy.
Hecht moderated a conversation on policy between former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. The two influential figures discussed the growth of the federal nutrition assistance programs over 40 years and reflected on obstacles overcome and successes achieved.
Hecht also moderated a panel discussion on local and national initiatives that are linking farm-fresh produce to food bank recipients. NPI researcher Elizabeth Campbell, who participated in the discussion with a local farmer, a food bank employee and a public health anti-hunger advocate, said food banks should have policies to guide the nutritional quality of their inventory.
During the closing plenary, First Lady Michelle Obama sent video greetings to the Childhood Obesity Conference attendees to praise them for their work and encourage them to continue to fight to protect and improve child health.
“It is public research universities like the University of California that can and will help lead the way as our nation grapples with this complex challenge of pediatric obesity,” Napolitano said. She then gave a few examples of UC projects that target social and environmental factors that contribute to overweight and obesity.
“Janet Napolitano is the first UC president to speak at the Childhood Obesity Conference,” said Ritchie. “I think it demonstrates her commitment to the Global Food Initiative and the work we do at UC ANR.”
Since the biennial conference's inception, Crawford and members of the Atkins Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley, and more recently members of NPI, have been involved in its planning. Crawford announced she is “passing the baton” to Ritchie to guide the conference moving forward.
PowerPoint presentations from the conference are online at http://www.childhoodobesity2015.com/bios.cfm?pid=902. Photos and postconference information can be seen on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #COC15.