The University of Nevada, Reno has hired Angeline Jeyakumar as a public health nutrition specialist for Extension and an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources' Department of Nutrition.
Jeyakumar, who will also conduct research as part of the College’s Experiment Station, will collaborate with public health experts statewide to develop community-based interventions targeting the reduction of chronic health conditions in Washoe County, Nevada. Her immediate priority is to assess the distinctive risk factors of various chronic health conditions across age groups and to alter nutrition behaviors to mitigate risk factors.
For more than 20 years, Jeyakumar has researched and advocated for the improvement of child and maternal nutrition in underserved communities. Prior to joining the College, she was a professor of public health nutrition and coordinator of the integrative dietetics program at Savitribai Phule Pune University's School of Health Sciences in Maharashtra, India. Her research at the university examined the risk factors and intervention strategies for malnutrition, specifically addressing micronutrient deficiencies in children and women.
Jeyakumar also collaborated with a team of researchers at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, under the Wellcome Trust grant, to compare the effects of increasing prevalence of chronic health conditions and changes in nutritional patterns among communities in India and South Africa. Building on her research, Jeyakumar developed practical strategies to address the chronic health challenges within her community.
Among her notable achievements is a comprehensive nutrition education module that she designed to combat iron deficiency among adolescent girls in the Pune district of western India. Her proactive approach emphasized the significance of promoting nutritional awareness before reproduction, recognizing it as a crucial step in breaking the cycle of undernutrition for future generations.
“Anemia is a widespread condition affecting young girls and women across socioeconomic levels in India that must be addressed as a priority,” Jeyakumar said. “Rather than focusing solely on food intervention, my program took a holistic approach to help the girls better understand their changing bodies and the intricate connection between their dietary choices and overall health throughout their reproductive years and beyond.”
Jeyakumar attributes the success of the program to its design and creative implementation. Her team employed creative instruction methods, such as role-playing, actual food shopping and preparation, and cooking competitions to immerse participants in the program.
“Undoubtedly, the most sustaining element of the integrated anemia prevention program proved to be nutritional education," she said. "Its assessment uncovered a remarkable shift in dietary awareness, shedding light on the profound effects of anemia, especially during the reproductive years."
Jeyakumar has tested nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions in the prevention of child undernutrition in the tribal regions. Acceptability of ready-to-use nutrition supplements, development of complementary nutrition for malnourished children from locally available foods, and water sanitation and hygiene interventions for the prevention of diarrhea are a few among them.
Jeyakumar has collaborated with international teams to investigate the increasing prevalence of malnutrition in response to the impacts of natural disasters and the proliferation of processed foods. In 2021, she contributed to a task force organized by Penn State University focused on studying and documenting the multifaceted aspects of global food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To enhance her intervention programs in India, Jeyakumar underwent specialized training in applied epidemiology at the U.S Centers for Disease Control. Additionally, she collaborates with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's Global Burden of Disease study, which quantifies the impact of diseases, death and disability within a population.
“Angeline brings a unique set of skills and experience to the department and Extension, and I’m very excited to welcome her to the team,” said Jamie Benedict, professor and chairperson of the Department of Nutrition. “Thanks to the support she has received from Extension and the Experiment Station, the University can look forward to the development of new and innovative approaches to reducing chronic disease risk among Nevadans.”
Jeyakumar earned her doctorate in foods and nutrition from SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai. She holds bachelor's and master’s degrees in philosophy, from Women’s Christian College, Chennai, India.