Department: Health, Behavior & Society • Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention
Title: Associate Professor
Email Address: email@example.com
Phone: (859) 218-2060
Location: Bowman Hall 332
Mark Swanson is a cultural anthropologist with interests in the influence of the social and physical environments on eating behaviors, particularly among children. Most of his research is conducted in eastern Kentucky, where he has worked for over a decade on food, farming, and community development issues. Areas of particular focus include farm to school programs, community-based participatory research, and social marketing in public health. Classes taught by Dr. Swanson include Food Systems, Malnutrition and Public Health (CPH 645), Ecological Perspectives on Health Behavior (CPH 642), and Social Marketing for Public Health (CPH 778).
Farm to School Programs
Dr. Swanson has received several NIH grants to study the potential of farm to school programs to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption among elementary school students. In Lee County (eastern Kentucky), Dr. Swanson’s project is working with school officials and area farmers to develop and implement a farm to school program, as well as to test the impact of the program on fruit and vegetable consumption among students. Assessment of fruit and vegetable consumption is conducted using digital photography to visually estimate the amounts of each item selected and consumed as part of the National School Lunch Program.
Community-Based Participatory Research
Recognizing that community problems are best addressed with the active participation of community members, Dr. Swanson and colleagues are working with the Community Farm Alliance and other community partners to identify problems related to healthy food access in eastern Kentucky, and to develop and evaluate an intervention to address those problems. This three year study, funded by the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities, is designed to incorporate local, as well as academic perspectives, to understand and address food access issues in the region.
Several of the objectives in Healthy People 2020 involve social marketing, a process that uses marketing principles and techniques benefit society, as well as the individual. Dr. Swanson is working with the Lexington Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition and the University of South Florida College of Public Health to use social marketing to improve access to healthy foods in Lexington’s urban food deserts. The “Good Neighbor Store” project targets small neighborhood convenience stores to encourage them to stock more healthy foods and become more positive parts of the community. Related social marketing activities are being conducted with neighborhood residents and policymakers to increase the success and sustainability of the project.