Course: Food Production, Public Health, and the Environment

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Course Description

Introduces the complex and challenging public health issue of food security (sufficient, safe and nutritious food for all) in a world where approximately one billion people are under-nourished while over 1.5 billion are overweight or obese. Explores the connections among diet, the current food and food animal production system, the environment and public health, considering factors such as equity, population pressure and the historical, economic and political forces that have helped shape food systems. Focuses on the U.S. experience, but also uses case studies in the U.S. and internationally to illustrate the issues discussed. Considers alternative approaches to achieving both local and global food security. Explores the important role public health professionals can play. Guest lecturers include experts from a variety of disciplines and experiences.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Define the concepts of food security and describe how food systems relate to public health.
  • Describe how diet, food production, the environment, equity, population and resources inter-relate to impact each other and ultimately human health.
  • Describe factors that have helped shape the current food system.
  • Identify three to five opportunities and challenges to encourage dietary behavior change, support sustainable agriculture, improve food security and lessen the environmental and public health impact of food production and consumption.

Course Format

Lectures: Lectures are presented in six modules. Students are expected to listen to all lectures during the course.  Most lectures are audio with powerpoint and both are important. A few lectures may be audio only or recorded video with no powerpoint. In addition to the required lectures, “recommended” and "optional” lectures are listed at the end of the course content page.

Readings: Each module contains required and recommended readings that complement lectures with additional or alternative perspectives. You will find links to required and recommended readings on the Module Introduction pages and the complete list is posted below. Each lecture page will also include optional resources related to that specific topic or speaker.

Participation (Livetalks and Discussion Forums):  Interaction with the teaching team and with your fellow students on the Livetalks and Forums is an essential component of this course. The Livetalks and Forums provide the opportunity to ask questions, seek feedback from faculty and other students, and participate in in-depth discussions of topics of interest.  It is important to keep pace with the lectures and readings in order to take full advantage of these interactive course tools.

Livetalks supplement recorded lectures with interactive, real-time discussion of course material and topics. LiveTalks consist of one hour of discussion led by faculty on selected forum threads/topics, readings, current events, and/or interviews with guest experts. These interactive sessions are meant to enhance learning by expanding on core course concepts and exploring in greater depth topics not thoroughly covered in lectures. Agendas will be sent to students prior to each session.

Students are expected to attend each of the four Livetalks or, when necessary, listen to LiveTalk archives. See the Lecture Schedule for Livetalk dates. Students who cannot attend at least three of the Livetalks should contact the teaching team.

Discussion Forums provide an opportunity for you to virtually connect and engage with the teaching team and other students. General discussion forums follow the modules in the course and allow you to ask questions and comment on the lectures and readings. Students are expected to post at least THREE thoughtful questions, comments or replies in the General discussion forums throughout the course. This is in addition to the Forum Sharing Activity described below.

Forum Sharing Activity:  A series of questions on the forum will encourage you to explore, observe and reflect upon your own food system and food environment, and share and discuss your experiences and findings with your fellow students in the course. Every other week you will be asked to respond to a set of questions in the forums, and read and respond to at least two other posts made by fellow students. Note: participation in the sharing exercise is scored separately from the general participation portion of your grade.

Quizzes: There will be six short online quizzes – one for each module. Quiz questions are provided in advance to help students prepare. Each quiz will contain basic review questions from the lectures plus more complex questions that help reinforce essential concepts.

Final Written Assignment: Public Health Advocacy Piece. This is an opportunity to communicate to a specific audience the key points of an issue or topic covered in the course and argue for or against a particular viewpoint or perspective on that issue.

Grading Policy

Quizzes 40%
Short, online quizzes encourage you to keep pace with the lectures. In general, each quiz will consist of multiple choice questions worth 1 point each, plus one or two short answer worth 2 points each.

Final Written Assignment 25%
Public Health Advocacy Piece. This is an opportunity to communicate to a specific audience the key points of an issue or topic covered in the course. There are two ways to fulfill this assignment: an op-ed piece to a newspaper or a requested public comment to a government agency.

Forum Sharing Activity 20%
You will receive up to six points for your contribution to each of the four parts of the Forum Sharing Activity for a total possible score of 24 (additional points go toward extra credit in calculating your final course grade).

Attendance and Participation 15%
Students are expected to listen to all of the recorded lectures/videos, attend each Livetalk (or listen to the archive within one week of the Livetalk session), and post at least three thoughtful questions, comments or responses to another post in the general discussion forums throughout the course.

The course design allows you flexibility in how and when you actively engage with the teaching team and students and accommodates individual learning preferences and schedules. Your participation score will be primarily based on lecture viewing, Livetalk attendance and your contribution to the general discussion forums (your participation in the forum sharing activity is scored separately, see above) will be an assessment of the overall value of your engagement and contributions throughout the course across all platforms.  For instance, students who are not able to meet minimum requirements for Livetalk attendance due to scheduling conflicts should be more active on the discussion forums to earn full credit for participation.

NOTE: Final grades may not be based solely on individual scores. When calculating final grades, faculty may also consider: interaction and communication with faculty; a student's improvement during the course; and comparison of individual students with the entire class.

Late Submission/Make-Up Policy
All assignments are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (U.S.) on the scheduled due date unless otherwise noted. Completing assignments on time is expected. Late assignments may result in penalties that lower the final grade. If illness or special circumstances impact completing an assignment on time, you are encouraged to contact one of the course instruction team prior to the due date to discuss options.

Repurposing Course Content

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