Duke-RTI Scholar Jonathan Blitstein Joins Center

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Deborah Hill
Duke-RTI Scholar Jonathan Blitstein

Public health psychologist Jonathan Blitstein will join Duke’s World Food Policy Center (WFPC) in October 2018 as a Duke-RTI Scholar. Blitstein, a senior researcher with RTI International’s Food, Nutrition & Obesity Policy Research Program, will develop evaluation frameworks for WFPC programs that can guide evidence-based best practices in food systems.

As a Duke-RTI Scholar, Blitstein will spend half of his time at Duke from October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019. Scholars are selected through a competitive process based on the potential for significant collaboration and contribution towards Duke’s research goals.

“RTI is an invaluable partner to Duke in so many ways,” said Larry Carin, vice provost for research. “The Duke-RTI Scholars program is another way to foster and develop this important relationship. We are very pleased that scholars like Dr. Blitstein can lend their expertise to the exciting research activities at Duke, like those in the World Food Policy Center.”

“We are delighted to welcome Jonathan to our research team,” said WFPC Director Kelly Brownell. “He brings deep experience in program evaluation and capacity building in food systems, public health, and nutrition. Our shared goal is to establish evidence-based approaches to conceptualizing, implementing, and evaluating food systems that can translate into local and national policy and, ultimately, disseminated to the global community."

Food systems are inherently complex and dynamic, Brownell explains, and we need evaluation strategies to help drive decisions, investments, and policymaking.

Blitstein will work with the World Food Policy Center team to develop a set of best practices for measurement and data collection for monitoring and evaluating activities related to food systems, and the role they play in economic development, community stabilization, individual well-being, and equity. 

“Importantly, the framework will encourage community-based participation and community capacity building in research and evaluation,” Brownell said. “This supports a critical work ethos at the WFPC---engaging the people most affected in the development of solutions.”

Blitstein plans to contribute to the field of food system development by publishing peer-reviewed articles on the evaluation framework and application, to engage with audiences through the center’s Washington, DC office, and participate at national meetings.

Blitstein holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Memphis and focuses on understanding the role of place as a determinant of health. His work contributes to reducing the impact of chronic disease among vulnerable populations. He has contributed to the design and evaluation of a wide array of public health and social welfare programs including nutrition education, food security, obesity prevention, food safety, tobacco control, violence prevention, and community empowerment.

“When Kelly suggested that I apply for the Duke-RTI Scholar’s position I did not think twice,” said Blitstein. “The Center’s focus on the intersection of food and well-being aligns with research interests that I’ve been developing for some time.  I am thrilled to be a part of what the WFPC team is building and I look forward to contributing my expertise in measurement and program evaluation.”