Professor of epidemiology to present UI Presidential Lecture Feb. 22
Thursday, February 12, 2015

Linda Snetselaar’s research and scholarship is relevant to everyone’s way of life—after all, we all eat. And she’s combined her passion for nutrition with her desire to help people make their lives better; several current research projects involve promoting health among families with food as a focus.

The lecture will be live streamed and later archived here

Snetselaar, professor of epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and associate provost of outreach and engagement, will deliver the 32nd annual UI Presidential Lecture, “Food, Culture, and Community,” at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, in the fourth floor assembly hall of the Levitt Center for University Advancement.

Snetselaar’s research interests include relationships between diet and chronic disease including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and renal disease. She has participated as principal investigator or co-principal investigator in numerous National Institutes of Health-funded studies, including the Women’s Health Initiative. Her current work has built on these landmark studies, bringing them into communities in Iowa and throughout the U.S., along with nations in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

While well-respected in her field, Snetselaar is most proud of her role as mother and wife. She has three sons and one daughter-in-law; her family has always championed her work and been supportive of her professional efforts.

Without giving away too much, what can people expect from your lecture? What do you hope people take away from your lecture?

My lecture tells the story of my work in numerous National Institutes of Health and foundation-funded studies. I focus on the importance of families, communities, and the cultures that drive their eating habits. I hope that people take away from my lecture the importance of integrating culture and community into research on food and nutrition.

What inspired you to explore your particular area of research?

I was attracted to nutrition counseling because I wanted to work with people to make their lives better, and I had a passion for the science of nutrition. After collaborating with a psychologist, I realized that there was more to helping people to adopt healthful eating practice than simply providing them with nutrition information. This led to my first book exploring nutrition counseling to support behavior change.

The topic of food is part of this year's inaugural "theme semester." It is a topic that has an impact on so many areas. How wide is that spectrum?

I have been amazed at how food is a topic that everyone is excited about from all corners of our campus and state. We have many arts and humanities faculty and students who care about food in the sense that it is a part of our history. Food plays a role in health sciences as well focusing on disease prevention and patient care. Current research is making advances in food sustainability, chronic disease management, and culturally relevant solutions to local food issues.

Health care is a recognized institutional strength at the University of Iowa. What's been most rewarding about your work over the years?

My most rewarding experiences have involved my staff and faculty colleagues who make work with those who participate from our Iowa communities a wonderful experience. All of my research over the years has involved community partners. My nutrition and education degrees have taught me to use the ideas of those participants in our Iowa communities as a guide for the research that we plan. This means that nutrition programs are tailored to each community partner who participates in our research.

I have had the honor of working with so many research experts who are committed to making a difference. They have shared with me the joy of community involvement in a variety of areas where the practice of preventing disease is changed based on our study results. These teams of University of Iowa caregivers and community partners have provided recommendations through research that have driven the course of practice for many chronic diseases.