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Niisoja Torto (PPS ‘20) recently accomplished two feats: completing an honor's thesis and achieving publication in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health Journal. Torto’s thesis explored the role of food aid and assistance in addressing the double burden of malnutrition in Ghana. The double burden problem presents a paradox – the coexistence of undernutrition with obesity in low and middle-income countries. Torto explored the problem to better understand the role of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) activities in targeting food access, food systems and socioeconomic disadvantage determinants of the double burden.

Torto’s path to his thesis was rooted in an early discontent with structural inequalities. At Duke, Torto transformed his myriad interests—ranging from medicine, policy and public health—into the beginning of his thesis. With his heritage in Ghana, Torto was determined to understand obesity and diet-related chronic conditions in this country.

“I entered college with a productive anger—an anger with the disparities and inequities that communities like mine continue to face generation after generation,” Torto explained. “It was this feeling that led me to the policy world where I fell in love with the power of public policy in transforming people’s lives.”

Advised by Professor Kelly D. Brownell, he designed the final iteration of his project. He also credits Professor Christina Gibson-Davis, Duke alumnus Alicia Groh, colleagues at the World Health Organization and NNEdPro, and his family for their invaluable support.

His advice to future thesis writers: “Persevere through the trying times [of writing the thesis] because the final product will be all yours—one from which you became a sort of expert along the way!”