Dissertation examines the relationship between SNAP benefits and youth health

Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Dissertation examines the relationship between SNAP benefits and youth health

By Tara Gomez, MA student in the Department of Communication Studies

On April 9, Public Policy Ph.D. student Katelin Hudak successfully defended her dissertation titled “Nutrition and health among low-income children: Estimating the association with SNAP using a quasi-experimental approach”. Hudak’s research examined a variety of health outcomes that can occur across different youth subgroups in relation to food security and SNAP eligibility.  She found that an increase in SNAP benefits resulted in lower diet quality in youth across differing levels of food security and age. However, Hudak explains that this lower quality diet does not necessarily translate into higher weight or worse cardiometabolic health, stating “I find that an increase in benefits is associated with healthier outcomes across many subgroups.”

Hudak’s thesis examines how food security, or consistent and reliable access to food, affects cardiometabolic health, such as blood pressure and cholesterol. Hudak stated: “Marginally food secure, SNAP-eligible youth show signs of worse cardiometabolic health when compared to marginally food secure youth who are just over the income-eligibility criteria. In contrast, SNAP-eligible youth with full, low, or very low food security have healthier cardiometabolic health indicators when compared to their counterparts who are just over the income-eligibility criteria.”

After successfully defending her dissertation, Katelin Hudak is set to graduate from the Public Policy Program this May. Pursuing a Ph.D. can be both challenging and rewarding, and to make the most out of the thesis-writing process, Hudak recommends finding a topic that you love. Hudak is passionate about how federal nutrition assistance programs and other social support systems affect child health. Hudak commented: “Having that passion can be tremendously helpful in continuing to motivate you throughout the process and in holding your interest. After spending several years and many, many hours working on my dissertation, I am still fascinated by my topic.”

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