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The UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) is pleased to welcome its first Public Health Prevention Specialist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Melissa Cunningham will spend two years working with both HPDP and the Physical Activity and Nutrition (PAN) Branch in the NC Division of Public Health as part of the CDC Public Health Prevention Service Fellowship program. CDC Prevention Specialists are assigned to sites based on a rigorous selection process including a matching system designed to link the specialist’s interests with the goals and resources of the host institutions.  Cunningham will focus her fellowship on food access and local food systems, a special area of focus for HPDP and PAN.

“It is an honor to be chosen to host a CDC Prevention Specialist,” said Alice Ammerman, director of HPDP and professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Ammerman said that  out of 177 academic-public health partnerships that proposed fellowships for a Prevention Specialist, only 25  matched with a fellow.

Before coming to North Carolina, Melissa worked in the Physical Activity and Health Branch in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the CDC. Her main projects included creating the State Indicator Report of Physical Activity, 2010 and evaluating awareness and knowledge of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines using HealthStyles, 2008 and 2009. She also worked in the Center for Global Health with the Sustainable Management Development Program. Her main activities there included supporting the first Regional Management for International Public Health Course held in Botswana where she was responsible for curriculum development and evaluation.

Prior to arriving at the CDC, Melissa completed her Dietetic Internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. She received her MS in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition and MPH from Tufts University and her bachelor’s degree from the College of Holy Cross.

She is originally from Massachusetts, enjoys traveling, adventure and is an avid runner.

“I’m very happy to be here and look forward to being a part of the great work that happens here at HPDP,” said Cunningham.

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