There’s a new school in town, and human wellness is its unifying focus.
The designation of the new School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness, approved this fall by the Arizona Board of Regents, highlights the growing number of degree programs and the expansion of research related to human health, wellness and optimal performance.
“A healthy diet and active lifestyle can help us be better equipped to fight illness and to recover faster when we do get sick,” said Scott Going, director of the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness. “It matters what you eat and how active you are, but those aren’t the only factors at play.”
Access to food, sleep, emotional and mental health, as well as an individual’s genetic makeup, all contribute to overall health and wellness, Going explained.
From the Classroom to Careers
The newly designated school will offer a holistic approach to human wellness education – connecting everything from the field to fork to the microbes in your gut to the cellular machinery and biochemicals inside your body.
With undergraduate, graduate and professional training in areas including dietetics, personalized nutrition, and food systems, students can take their education in different directions and “follow their mind and find their passion,” Going explained.
Students earning a B.S degree in the recently established Nutrition and Food Systems, a collaborative and complementary program to the Food Studies B.A degree in the School of Geography and Development in the UArizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, learn about regional food issues such as food production challenges in an arid desert region, utilizing desert/local foods in product development and incorporating the cultural influences that shape the local cuisine. They also learn about the relationships among food security, nutrition and overall health, preparing them with the knowledge and skills needed to manage and enhance the food supply chain — and ensure sustainable production of nutritious, affordable food to feed a growing world population. They get and create “new economy” jobs in food marketing, organic food certification, entrepreneurship, policy, and more.
As part of the new Precision Nutrition and Wellness degree, students explore how a person’s genome, exercise, and lifestyle interact to influence their health and wellness. From evaluating the risk of developing illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular disease to testing possible diet and exercise changes using genetic and lifestyle markers, students will be prepared to lead the precision wellness revolution. They get and create “new economy” jobs in health and wellness research.
Those wanting to be registered dietitian nutritionists also have the opportunity to combine advanced coursework and experiential learning with a new Dietetics Emphasis of the Professional Science Masters in Applied Nutrition. This allows future dietitians to meet the requirements to sit for the national registration exam in a streamlined, twelve-month graduate program.
Tackling Grand Challenges
The school leverages expertise in food systems, precision (and so personalized) nutrition, chronic disease prevention and palliation, and targeted exercise to help you reduce the burden of diet and lifestyle related diseases to help you be more resilient, “well-er,” do more of what you want to better, and see your medical provider less.
Chronic diseases – especially Alzheimer’s disease, type-2 diabetes, cancers, and heart disease – are the biggest contributor to the U.S.’s $3.8 trillion annual health care costs. According to the Center for Disease Control, six in ten American adults have one chronic disease and four in ten have two.
"No two factors explain higher risk for chronic disease better than nutrition and physical inactivity," Going said. "Moreover, appropriate and targeted nutrition and exercise are central to treatment and rehabilitation."
The school’s nationally recognized researchers are leaders in omega-3 fatty acids effects on inflammation, chronic illness, and cardiovascular disease; working side-by-side with NASA on exercise, the immune system and viral diseases; and treatments for head and neck cancer survivor recovery from radiation therapy.
“Our school’s interdisciplinary faculty are trained in cancer biology, physiology, biochemistry, nutrition, genetics, genomics and many other things,” Going said. “And we’re all working together to improve human health and wellness.”