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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Nutrition expert to discuss impact of economic downturn on health of limited income women

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KINGSTON, R.I.—March 17, 2009 -- Nancy Fey-Yensan, associate dean of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Human Science and Services and professor of nutrition and food sciences, will give the annual Fredrika Wild Schweers Lecture on Women and Health. Her lecture, Poverty and Nutritional Health: The Gender and Age Divide, will be given Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m., Galanti Lounge, URI Library (3rd floor), 15 Lippitt Road, Kingston. The talk, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the URI Women’s Studies Program.

In her lecture, Fey-Yensan will discuss how the recent economic downturn is quickly reshaping how Americans spend their disposable income and redefining health care systems, resources, and services. For those living within the margins of poverty, the management of basic daily needs, principally those related to food and health, has moved from being improbable to now being almost impossible.

Women living on limited incomes face particularly daunting nutrition and health obstacles—a divide that has for many decades been answered with shadow plays and short-of-the-mark solutions. In this overview of the salient nutrition-related health issues for women with limited resources, Fey-Yensan will also highlight URI’s nutrition research and successful outreach efforts focused on this population.

Before earning her doctoral degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Connecticut in 1995, Fey-Yensan worked in Connecticut as a chemosensory researcher at the UConn Medical School. She then worked as a community nutritionist in Hartford where she learned about and struggled with the magnitude of poverty and the profound effects it had on the health, well-being and quality of life of her clients—women, their families, and older adults. These urban experiences set the course of the rest of her 30-year career.

Although she’s now an associate dean, Fey-Yensan’s passion for her work as a community nutritionist has not dwindled. She and her colleagues in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences have collaborated during the past 12 years and continue to collaborate to build a unique community nutrition outreach, education, and research program focused on resource-constrained families and older adults. The team’s research related to the impact of poverty on diet quality, aging, minority health and obesity, has brought nearly $9 million in funding to these efforts. These funds also support the production of free community-friendly educational materials and community-based nutrition education programs, and have supported the research and professional development activities of scores of undergraduate and graduate students who are concerned with the nutritional status of low-income Rhode Islanders.

Fey-Yensan has received numerous awards and appointments for her work, including a federal appointment as the national research panel manager, U.S. Department of Agriculture/CSREES NRI Human Nutrition and Obesity Program, Washington, D.C.