Dr. Heather Eicher-Miller, Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition Science of the College of Health and Human Sciences at Purdue University, USA, is the Laureate of the Danone International Prize for Alimentation (DIPA) for her groundbreaking research into Improving food security, dietary intake, and health through integrated science and engineering approaches.
Dr. Eicher-Miller’s research is focused on food insecurity which affects 11% of US households and creates uncertainty regarding the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods. Her work has documented immediate and chronic adverse dietary and health outcomes associated with food insecurity among diverse populations.
“Food insecurity is an unsolved problem, associated with poor dietary intake, health outcomes and shorter lifespans.” – Dr Heather Eicher-Miller
The Award ceremony and lecture was online on June, 20, 2023, at 10:00 AM EST (2:00 PM UTC, 4:00 PM CEST).
Re-discover it online below
Dr. Eicher-Miller’s research is focused on three key areas:
The scope of knowledge on food insecurity, dietary status, and health outcomes among very low food secure households has been mainly unknown. It was only since 2015 that food insecurity was a recognized issue in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In addition, the intervention context was limited to the household food environment despite the broad influence of the community and organizations such as local food pantries which offer a point-of-contact for interventions among difficult-to-reach low-resource groups.
Dr. Eicher-Miller’s team documented extremely poor dietary quality, a high prevalence not meeting nutrient recommendations, and a strikingly high percentage of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and related risk factors among food pantry clients. She investigates the food pantry as a point-of-intervention to learn how clients use services and to identify novel ways to capitalize on this unique community food environment.
Nutrition education offers a potentially powerful intervention to improve food security. Dr. Eicher-Miller secured funding for a project team representing expertise in statistics, community development, and health science, to lead a randomized, controlled evaluation of a major federal nutrition education program in the U.S., the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed).
The team determined a 25% improvement in household food security one year after receiving the program. The nutrition education program was effective in both rural and urban settings and in variations of other environmental contexts, independent of food assistance. To go further, Dr. Eicher-Miller and her team currently explore dietary intake among adults who receive SNAP-Ed and their children. Previous studies have shown that households with food insecurity are known to reserve food considered “healthful” for children. Therefore, Dr Eicher-Miller and her team will determine how the nutrition education program may affect children’s and adult’s dietary intake when household food security improves. The findings will be used to create supplementary educational material focused on improving healthful dietary intake for children and adults living in food insecure situations.
Dr. Eicher-Miller also works to discover the complex nature of dietary behavior over time. An initial project in this area was focused on discovering the daily time-bound routines of dietary intake, including the times and amounts of energy consumed over a 24-hour day, to characterize and validate temporal dietary patterns in U.S. adults.
One year after the beginning of the application process, the 3rd Edition of the DIPA received twenty (20) applications from all over the World.
The Selection Committee chaired by Prof Suzanne Higgs, from the Birmingham University in the U.K. and constituted of international Experts, pre-selected eight (8) final applications.
The Jury of the 3rd Edition of the DIPA, chaired by Dr Michael Prelip from the University of California, Los Angeles, U.S.A. and made up of six international Experts, gathered in April 2023.
The Jury recognized Dr. Eicher Miller’s innovative and interdisciplinary approach, associating engineering and multidisciplinary approaches.
“The Jury decided to award Dr. Heather Eicher-Miller for her strong contribution to the field of Alimentation; her ability to lead interdisciplinary teams; and her commitment to mobilize her findings to effect real, lasting change on food insecurity.” – Dr Michael Prelip, chair of the Jury of the 3rd edition of DIPA.