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Patricia Crawford, a catalyst for change, retires after 40 years

Patricia Crawford
Patricia Crawford's work on improved food labeling is but one example of the way that her timely, rigorous research has demonstrated the role of sugary foods and beverages in the development of diabetes and obesity and in helping to fuel America's childhood obesity epidemic. In countless ways Crawford, who is retiring this year after more than 40 years as a UC Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist, has supported the adoption of public policies that promote safer, more healthful food and beverages for all people.

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. 

Friends and colleagues celebrated Crawford career accomplishments at her retirement party.

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.”

Kelly Brownell, Jen Falbe, Crawford and May Wang at the retirement party.

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.

Posted on Friday, July 26, 2019 at 2:24 PM
  • Author: Liz Sizensky
  • Author: Ann Brody Guy

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