My research focuses on obesity prevention in underserved populations, particularly during critical periods in growth and development such as adolescence. In addition, as a large portion of my time is dedicated to instruction, I have also engaged in scholarly work related to development of effective instructional strategies. These areas of focus reflect the current needs in the state of Hawai‘i, as obesity remains a pressing problem. Further, there are higher rates of obesity and associated chronic conditions in underserved populations such as Filipinos. To address high rates of chronic disease and existing health disparities, it is crucial to provide high-quality training to budding nutrition professionals, which drives my research on instructional techniques. Health promotion for chronic disease prevention is a topic of great interest in the US and is a large component of the courses I teach at my institution. As obesity rates increase around the globe, examining strategies to encourage maintenance of healthy weight in diverse settings is of paramount importance.
My interest in serving as a Fulbright Specialist stemmed from an interest in applying the knowledge I have gained in performing studies in the US to other settings to address the needs of underserved populations exhibiting similar chronic health issues. The problems populations in the US face with regards to nutrition are similar to those many others around the globe are now facing, and the techniques I have used in performing research and teaching in the US may be applied to address these. I had an interest in working with other health professionals abroad to combat health disparities.
I engaged in a program to train faculty at Universidad Veritas in Costa Rica in course development. I taught a basic nutrition course for the faculty and met with faculty individually to assist them with incorporation of nutrition information into their courses. Universidad Veritas offers several courses in Health and Human Development within the sustainability focus at that institution, and faculty benefited from training in development of syllabi for additional courses to complement those existing.
One of the photos captured my meeting with Noel Payne to discuss integration of information on nutrition into two of Noel’s courses: Sustainable Lifestyles and Sustainable Consumption and Production. I similarly worked with faculty to integrate resources related to nutrition into a number of different courses.
During my stay in Costa Rica, I also conducted a workshop related to conducting research in the nutrition field at the Universidad Ciencias Médicas in Costa Rica. This workshop provided faculty with tools to develop research projects and publish in the field.
I also took a few days to travel to Mexico to present my research at the Congreso latinoamericano de Nutrición (SLAN). At this meeting, I shared results of a trial seeking to promote healthy eating in underserved groups using text message.
I also had the opportunity to try a number of tasty local foods, such as pejivalle, as well as tour a coffee farm with one of the professors. In addition, I took several cooking classes to further familiarize myself with local cuisine.
I continue to correspond with those with whom I connected while I was in Costa Rica, and engage in discussion on nutrition-related topics. The experience was very beneficial to me professionally, as I am able to incorporate relevant aspects of my experience into my teaching. I am able to draw parallels between the settings in which I work and others. I also gained familiarity with the structure and content of programs abroad to continue to improve the offerings for our students.
– Jinan Banna
Fulbright Specialist to Costa Rica 2018-2019