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Professor Gretel Pelto is a Graduate Professor (retired from active teaching) in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. She received her BA in sociology, MA and Ph.D in anthropology from the University of Minnesota. She is internationally recognized for her work on bridging the interface between academic research and actions to improve nutrition and public health in communities. The interaction between theory and practice brings social science methods, particularly those of ethnography, to bear on nutrition and child health research, with an emphasis on infant and young child nutrition.
She began her teaching career in the Department of Nutritional Science at The University of Connecticut, where she developed nutritional anthropology as an academic research area and helped to build the theoretical and organizational foundations for this emerging field. She has written and edited four books on the field, and numerous articles on theoretical and empirical issues, often addressed to the academic nutrition community. Her initial field research was in Mexico (including a major project in the 1980s under the auspices of the Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP), and later in other parts of Latin America. She has also worked in Finland carrying out research on dietary change with support from a Fulbright grant. In 2006 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Helsinki, in recognition of this work and contributions to the development of nutrition research and teaching.
Professor Pelto’s experience led to her appointment at the World Health Organization (WHO) where she served for 8 years as the senior social scientist responsible for creating research tools and implementing their application to improve household management of acute respiratory infection and diarrheal diseases in developing countries. In addition to addressing family care-seeking behavior, she also worked on improving health worker communication skills and the organization of health services to support skill development. In 2007 she received the Malinowski Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology, which is given "to an outstanding social scientist in recognition of efforts to understand and serve the needs of the world's societies and who has actively pursued the goal of solving human problems using the concepts and tools of social science." She is also a Fellow of the American Society for Nutrition and the Society for Applied Anthropology.
She was a founding editor of the journals, Medical Anthropology, and Reviews in Anthropology, which was established to further the quality in publishing of academic anthropological research. To provide a forum for nutritional anthropology she worked with colleagues to established a group within the Society for Medical Anthropology, which is now an independent organization (The Society for Food and Nutrition) that operates under the umbrella of the American Anthropological Association. She currently serves on the editorial board of several nutrition and health journals.
|Teaching and Advising Statement:|
Although I am retired from formal teaching, I work with students in directed readings and directed research. I also serve on student committees as a minor member, but not as a major advisor.
|Current Professional Activities:|
I am active in various groups that are involved in furthering research and program development in the area of infant and young child feeding, most notably GAIN (the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition), Helen Keller Internatinal, and WHO. I also work actively with the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.
|Current Research Activities:|
My research is focused primarily on infant and young child feeding. My research activities involve investigations of caregivers and the household and community contexts of infant and young child feeding, investigating feeding behaviors from the perspectives of women and families, and the delivery of nutrition interventions. I am also involved in implementation research.
BA Sociology University of Minnesota 1963
MA Anthropology University of Minnesota 1967
Ph.D Anthropology University of Minnesota 1970
Dufour D, Goodman A, Pelto G.H. (2012) Nutritional Anthropology: Biocultural Perspectives on Food and Nutrition. Second edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pelto, G. H. (2013). The ideational dimension of maternal and infant nutrition: the importance of conflicting values. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 9(1), 1-2.
Pelletier, D. and G. Pelto. (2013) From efficacy research to large-scale impact on undernutrition: The role of organizational cultures.Advances in Nutr 4(6): 687-696
Mbuya MN, Menon P, Habicht J P, Pelto GH, and Ruel MT. (2013) Maternal knowledge after nutrition behavior change communication is conditional on both health workers' knowledge and knowledge-sharing efficacy in rural Haiti. J Nutr, 143(12): 2022-8.
Habicht J-P, Pelto GH. (2014) From biological to program efficacy: Promoting dialogue among the research, policy, and program communities. Advances in Nutrition. January 2014. 5 (1): 27-34
Jones AD, Ngure, FM, Pelto, GH, Young SL. (2013) What are we assessing when we measure food security? A compendium and review of current metrics. Advances in Nutrition 4: 481-505.
|The information on this bio page is taken from the CHE Annual Report.|