An advocate for eating well, Alex Ruch is passionate about food. And while he knows that nutrient values and calories count, his interest lies in the behavioral side of eating. Why do people choose to eat what they do? What are the environmental influences on a person’s diet? And, ultimately, how do you encourage healthy food choices?
Ruch addressed these questions in his studies as an MPH student in community health and health behavior. After earning his bachelor’s degree in sociology from SUNY at Geneseo, he decided to broaden his education with a public health approach. “I appreciate the multidisciplinary aspect of public health,” he said. “Understanding the full context of an issue and its related factors is critical. No single thing determines one’s health—it’s a collection of factors.”
Ruch also appreciated the School of Public Health and Health Professions’ varied coursework. “The school offers a lot of courses that focus on putting theory and research into evidence-based practice,” he said. “They’re meaningful courses that, I believe, will be incredibly effective for me both now and continuing on in my career. I also like the wide diversity of unique courses, including topics such as obesity, health behavior change, and health disparities.”
Additional highlights include the school’s welcoming environment and involved faculty. “The professors were genuinely interested in knowing my study interests and were supportive of them,” said Ruch, who worked as a research assistant for Gregory G. Homish, PhD. With additional research team members, Homish and Ruch assessed the effectiveness of educational approaches in preventing childhood obesity within Western New York.
Ruch’s future plans include earning a PhD in sociology. Combined with his public health education, this will help prepare him for a career exploring food culture—the individual and social-level factors that influence what people eat and why, the processes affecting the values and meanings surrounding foods, and social movements related to food.