Joanne Ikeda wins UC outreach award

September 05, 1999
Joanne Ikeda, a nationally recognized expert on pediatric obesity and the dietary practices of ethnic and immigrant populations, has received the 1999 Outstanding Outreach Award from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The award, which includes a plaque and cash, is presented annually by the division's Affirmative Action Office to academics with Cooperative Extension, the university's outreach arm.
As a Cooperative Extension nutrition education specialist and codirector of the Center for Hunger and Obesity in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, Ikeda has been a leader in efforts to refine approaches to the prevention and treatment of pediatric obesity at the local, state and national levels. She is author or coauthor of several books and training manuals designed to help healthcare professionals, paraprofessionals and parents instill healthy eating habits and encourage physical activity in children and adolescents. These publications include the training kit and accompanying videotape Children and Weight, What Health Professionals Can Do About It, coauthored with Patricia Crawford, also a nutrition specialist in the College of Natural Resources; and Kids Module: Parents and Children Sharing Food Tasks, produced with UC Berkeley Staff Research Associate Rita Mitchell. Ikeda recently provided in-service training for pediatricians who care for low-income children through California Children's Medical Services on the prevention and treatment of pediatric obesity. She also works to eliminate discrimination based on size. She published a commentary in the August 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association promoting a size-acceptance approach to weight management with large people.

In addition, Ikeda has been a pioneer in conducting community collaborative research on the food habits and dietary quality of California's low-income, immigrant and ethnic populations. Her findings are used to develop culturally sensitive and relevant educational programs for these groups, which have included Hmong families in California's Central Valley; Vietnamese-speaking women in the Bay Area; Native Americans in Mariposa and other areas of California; and African-American women from eight California counties. Last year she received the Nutrition Education for the Public Award of Excellence from the American Dietetic Association for the project A Culturally Sensitive and Relevant Nutrition Education Program for Vietnamese Immigrants. She recently completed an in-service training module on increasing cross-cultural competence in nutrition education, which is being distributed by the American Dietetic Association and the Society for Nutrition Education.

By understanding and emphasizing the valuable dietary practices of cultural minorities, Ikeda is able to win their trust and help them maintain healthy habits without abandoning their traditional practices. "When she approached Native American communities, she emphasized the many positive Native American practices that her previous research had identified," says Professor Leonard Bjeldanes, chair of the College of Natural Resources' Department of Nutritional Science, who nominated Ikeda for the award. "Tribal leaders, who were inundated with grim statistics about health problems in their communities, were delighted to hear 'good news' and enthusiastically endorsed a nutrition education project that she developed in collaboration with their communities."

In supporting her nomination, colleagues stressed Ikeda's creative, innovative approaches to nutrition education. Barbara Emison Gaffield, advisor with the Pediatric Nutrition Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association, says Ikeda is "a talented, creative, innovative and visionary nutrition professional [whose] concerns are for children and adults of all cultures as individuals with strengths and needs."

Ikeda regularly shares her expertise with state and federal agencies. Recently she testified before the San Francisco Human Rights Commission in favor of a ban on size discrimination in city employment and housing; the commission voted unanimously in favor of the ban. She also testified before the Food and Drug Administration's Consumer Forum and the Federal Trade Commission for a case against a dietary supplement manufacturer charged with making false advertising claims. Commission attorneys said Ikeda's nutrition expertise played an important role in helping them win the case.

Ikeda's honors have included the Society of Nutrition Education Weight Realities Achievement Award; the Ethel Austin Martin Nutrition Education Distinguished Lecturer Award from South Dakota State University; and the Alumni Award for Outstanding Volunteerism from her alma mater, Cornell University. She has served as president of the California Dietetic Association and chair of the American Dietetic Association's Nutrition Education for the Public Practice Group and has been active on many advisory boards and committees.