Student's Proposal Selected as Project for Peace

Occidental College senior Michael Fox's proposal to combat obesity and unhealthy eating habits in India has been selected as a Davis Project for Peace.

College students from over 90 campuses will collectively receive more than $1 million in funding during the summer of 2011 for projects in all regions of the world. Each of the projects, including Fox's "Education Workshops to Promote Health and Peace in India," will receive $10,000.

Fox, a kinesiology major from Foster City, Calif., will spend six weeks in Delhi, India in June and July to construct, implement, and evaluate dietary programs. A vegan and athlete, Fox says, "I have always had a passion for chronic disease prevention, especially through the use of proper nutrition and daily exercise." He also says he feels a responsibility to educate others on how to live a healthy life. As part of a directed research group at Oxy, he helped create community-based resources (such as crafting exercise manuals and hosting resistance training workshops) to encourage positive lifestyle behaviors in low-income neighborhoods.

Fox chose India because "I have always been interested in having a global impact in an area suffering from escalating rates of chronic disease as a result of a westernized lifestyle, and I thought this project would also provide me with a unique cultural perspective to care for others." He will be working with the non-profit organization the Chronic Care Foundation in India to design educational workshops to promote healthy dietary behavior.

According to Fox's proposal, India is undergoing a rapid nutritional transformation characterized by an increased availability of total calories (especially from saturated fat and processed food), leading to the emergence of concomitant chronic disease. Recent data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that non-communicable diseases now account for 50 percent of all deaths in India, with two of the three leading causes of death being heart disease and stroke.

"Hosting informative workshops will enable me to educate participants about more healthful dietary options available to traditional Indian cuisines and explain how a collective effort to reverse pervasive malnutrition can help resolve India's financial healthcare crisis," Fox says. "The objective of this project is to empower people in India to successfully recognize and avoid deleterious impacts of westernization-namely, the increased commercial availability of calorie-dense foods and attendant rise in healthcare costs. This will help promote peace by ensuring that the worst of American culture does not interfere with existing vegetarian lifestyles and lead to future resentment either of America or between the various traditional and westernized factions of India."

"The competition was keen and we congratulate the students who proposed the winning projects," said executive director of the Davis Projects for Peace program Philip O. Geier.

"I was ecstatic that my project was selected," says Fox, who added that he wrote 13 drafts of his proposal before he was satisfied. After graduating from Occidental, he plans to pursue a Ph.D in nutrition biochemistry to help integrate preventive research with public health policies and programs to mitigate the incidence of non-communicable disease.

Occidental students' proposals also were selected as Projects for Peace in 2009 and 2010. Last year's chosen project was "Adapting to Climate Change" in Ghana by Chris Suzdak '12. In 2009, Sarah Arvey, Anna Katz-Springer, and Margo Seigle, all Class of '09, received funding for their proposal, "Honduran Youth Outreach Leaders."

The Projects for Peace initiative was started by philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis in 2007 to challenge youth to design and employ innovative techniques that focus on conflict resolution, reconciliation, building understanding and breaking down barriers that cause conflict to build peace throughout the world in the 21st century. A complete list of the participating schools and projects is available on the program's website