An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health

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An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health

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Description

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Explore how food intersects with public health and the environment as it moves from field to plate.

About the Course

A food system encompasses the activities, people and resources involved in getting food from field to plate. Along the way, it intersects with aspects of public health, equity and the environment. In this course, we will provide a brief introduction to the U.S. food system and how food production practices and what we choose to eat impacts the world in which we live. Through several case studies, we will discuss some key historical and political factors that have helped shape the current food system and consider alternative approaches from farm to fork. The course will be led…

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

Explore how food intersects with public health and the environment as it moves from field to plate.

About the Course

A food system encompasses the activities, people and resources involved in getting food from field to plate. Along the way, it intersects with aspects of public health, equity and the environment. In this course, we will provide a brief introduction to the U.S. food system and how food production practices and what we choose to eat impacts the world in which we live. Through several case studies, we will discuss some key historical and political factors that have helped shape the current food system and consider alternative approaches from farm to fork. The course will be led by a team of faculty and staff from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Guest lecturers will include experts from a variety of disciplines, including public health and agriculture.

About the Instructor(s)

Robert S. Lawrence, MD, is Professor of Health Policy and International Health and the Center for a Livable Future Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He holds a joint appointment as Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine.
Dr. Lawrence graduated from Harvard Medical School is a founding director of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a human rights advocacy group that shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to ban anti-personnel landmines. Dr. Lawrence chaired the first US Preventive Services Task Force and he has chaired committees for the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. In his position as director of Health Sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation before joining the faculty of JHSPH, Bob worked with colleagues directing programs in Agricultural Sciences, Population Sciences, and Environmental Sciences and learned about the multiple connections among agriculture, food production, population, the environment and public health. In 1996, together with a team of people both inside and outside the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Bob established the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and began recruiting staff. From its modest beginnings in 1996 to its burgeoning staff today, the Center has continually focused on using the best science available to bring to light the relationships among agriculture, diet, environment and public health.

Keeve Nachman, PhD, MHS is an assistant scientist with a primary appointment in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and a joint appointment in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Dr. Nachman directs the Farming for the Future program at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future where he investigates a variety of issues related to the industrial model of food production. Prior to joining the JHSPH faculty, Dr. Nachman completed a post-doctoral fellowship with the Environmental Protection Agency in the National Center for Environmental Economics, and worked as a toxicologist and risk assessor for the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Recommended Background

An understanding of public health or nutrition is helpful but not necessary. As farmer and poet Wendell Berry noted, “Eating is an agricultural act.”

Suggested Readings

Begin exploring course topics by visiting:

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future website
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future blog
Teaching the Food System curriculum

Additional links related to lecture topics include:

Meatless Monday campaign
Farm Bill Budget Visualizer
Pew Commission on Industrial Farmed Animal Production
Toward a Healthy, Sustainable Food System (APHA Policy Statement, 2007)

Course Format

This course will be taught by a team of faculty and staff from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. It is based on a 4-credit online course offered to graduate students at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Though the course will include lectures from experts in fields such as public health and agriculture, not all speakers recorded for this course will be available for direct student interaction.

FAQ

  • What is covered in this course?

    This course provides only a brief introduction to the food system of the United States. The topic of food systems is broad and complex and not all topics or issues can be covered in the time allotted for this course.

  • Who should take this course?

    This course is intended for students with a sincere interest in exploring food systems of the United States through a public health lens and is meant to raise questions and generate healthy and civil discussion about what we eat and how that food gets from farm to fork. Students will be expected to represent themselves honestly and respect the diverse ideas presented in the course by faculty, guest lecturers and other students.

Provided by:

University: Johns Hopkins University

Instructor(s): Robert S. Lawrence, Keeve Nachman

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