Health and Nutrition

Minnesota's poverty rate is low, but statistics mark some of the largest health and economic disparities in the country. The University of Minnesota focuses on making systemic changes that promote the health and wellbeing of Minnesotans.

Research and Extension are committed to:

  1. Addressing family and community systems to support food knowledge, accessibility, and affordability
  2. Addressing relationships between diet, nutrition, physical activity, and human disease
  3. Developing methods to help the food infrastructure provide safe and healthy food that people desire
  4. Addressing critical issues affecting physical and mental health; e.g., drug/alcohol abuse, aging, economics

Research Highlights

In 2012, UMN providers and researchers from the School of Public Health, Academic Health Center (Office of Emergency Preparedness), and Department of Family Social Science partnered with colleagues at the Minnesota Department of Health to develop an innovative self-care app for emergency responders in the field. In early 2020, they again refined the app as a simplified in-the-field tool for first responders engaged in responding to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Early in the pandemic, concerns about N95 respirator shortages dominated the headlines around the world and there was an immediate need for safe alternatives that could also be quickly and effectively mass produced. But as supply chains stabilized, UMN researchers could focus on developing masks that not only block the virus but effectively kill it on contact.

Previously, federal regulations prevented the study of cannabinoids and other illicit drugs, which made it difficult or even impossible to study the effects of these types of compounds. Notably, the FDA advises against the use of CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol, and marijuana during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, yet marijuana use during pregnancy is on the rise, likely because of perceived limited risks and changing social norms. A team of researchers at the UMN set out to close knowledge gaps related to long-term CBD safety and impacts by conducting a first-of-its-kind lab study on mice. 

Researchers at the University’s Design of Active Materials and Structures Lab and Wearable Technology Lab recently developed a temperature-responsive textile. The new textiles resemble typical knits, except they are created with a special category of active materials—known as shape memory alloys (SMAs)—which change shape when heated.

A two-year research/design project funded by the MAES State Reserve Funds came to fruition in 2015 with 25 East-African middle school girls from the Cedar-Riverside community walking the runway and modeling active wear they co-designed UMN researchers.