By Izzy Moody ’19, GW Food Institute Student Fellow
Dr. Michael Long is a leading researcher in the evaluation of policy solutions to reverse the obesity epidemic in the United States and is an Assistant Professor in the Milken Institute School of Public Health. Dr. Long is working on numerous projects related to food on national and local levels. Here are five in which he is currently involved:
- Childhood obesity: For the past eight years, Dr. Long has been analysing the cost effectiveness of over 40 nutrition policies to reduce childhood obesity with the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost Effectiveness Study (CHOICES): an initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that aims to help reverse the US obesity epidemic by identifying the most cost-effective childhood obesity prevention interventions.
- Adult weight gain: Dr. Long has also been tackling issues of obesity in his work here at GW. Alongside Dr. William Dietz, another Faculty Affiliate of the Food Institute, Long has been assembling proposals and analyses in excess weight gain in adults ages 20 to 39: a range that is often forgotten in the discourse on obesity in the U.S.
- Produce Plus: Locally, Dr. Long has been collaborating with Dr. Kim Robien to assess the effectiveness of the Produce Plus Program. Dr. Long says his experience gathering data at farmer’s markets over the summer was a great opportunity to “meet people in D.C. who are benefitting from an innovative program to reduce food insecurity and improve diet quality in the District.” He also enjoys working alongside GW students, who comprise Produce Plus’ strong volunteer base.
- BMI surveillance: Dr. Long recently completed an evaluation of school based nutrition intervention; an area of study that lacks extensive data. For his evaluation, Long used existing surveillance data, highlighting that a lack of this data is a “big gap” in our ability to make local and state food policy. Dr. Long published the first map illustrating the state Body Mass Index surveillance of 14 different states
- Mental health and childhood obesity: Finally, Dr. Long has been broadening his focus on BMI of children to include more mental health issues, specifically here in D.C. It is important to recognize that there are often multiple adversities that contribute to childhood obesity, Long says, referencing Wendy Ellis’ work related to community resilience. Dr. Long is partnering with the District of Columbia to improve the surveillance and planning of mental health services in the city; he stresses the importance of trust in building these kind of relationships, and highlights the role students can play as ambassadors to these kinds of programs.
Dr. Long commented that the Food Institute is crucial in “building out a culture and a team of faculty who are committed to doing rigorous research, to improving local food environment, and to using the knowledge they gain” to improve local and global food systems. Long said that pooling resources through the institute is “critical” to building a sense of collaboration among food-focused faculty at GW. Long also emphasized the need for total involvement of our campus community: “our work relies on well-trained and interested students.” Events held on campus like last month’s 2017 Food Tank Summit exemplify how the Food Institute can serve as a “platform for existing faculty to communicate with each other and to students” and draw in outside talent as well.
“It’s an exciting time at GW,” Dr. Long concluded.