Duke Public Policy: New Funding and New Dean, Kelly Brownell

Kelly Brownell, pioneering public health expert in obesity, who founded and led the Yale Rudd Center for Food Science and Obesity since 2005, will become dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University on July 1. This week, Duke announced a $10 million gift to the Sanford School from David Rubenstein.

Brownell revolutionized obesity and food policy by bringing a public health perspective into focus. He coined the term “a toxic environment” to describe the combination of a growing sedentary culture and the aggressive marketing of cheap, low-nutrition foods that defeat normal processes to regulate weight. Trained as a psychologist, he joined Yale in 1991 after thirteen years as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. With a gift of $5 million from the Rudd Foundation in 2005, Brownell founded the Rudd Center to serve as a resource for research and public policy relating to obesity.

Since its founding, the Rudd Center has had an impact on many fronts, including changing the way kids eat in school. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new “Smart Snacks in Schools” proposal, announced In February, was inspired in part by Brownell’s congressional testimony in 2002 of the importance of removing unhealthy foods from schools. According to colleagues, it’s a tribute to Brownell’s leadership and vision that Rudd will continue to be successful without him.

The funding from Rubenstein will equip Brownell to pursue an objective of enhancing Duke’s visibility and participation in the formulation of public policy in Washington. He hopes to apply the  model of strategic science — research that helps to inform and influence policy — in a broader context at the Duke Sanford School.

If his record is any predictor, Brownell will continue to effect change at Duke. According to Brownell, “I am one of those people who hopes to leave behind the world better than I entered it.”

Click story here to read more in the Yale Daily News, and click here to read more in Duke Today.

Image of Brownell © Duke Today

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.