With the continuing trend toward ever-more “natural” diets, the raw milk debate has gathered steam, including here in Massachusetts where lawmakers have been considering legislation to loosen restrictions on selling raw milk for the nearly 30 dairy farms in the state.

While the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), like other public health agencies and organizations, had concerns about health consequences associated with consumption of raw milk products, it was critical to look more broadly across the U.S. at the prevalence of food-borne illness and to better understand economic impacts associated with the distribution of raw milk.  Unfortunately, DPH didn’t have the resources to thoroughly explore these issues.

So DPH Commissioner John Auerbach turned for answers to the public health researcher expertise at Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center and their Community Health Innovation and Research Program (HC-CHIRP). The HC-CHIRP staff includes research faculty from Harvard’s School of Public Health (HSPH).

Kathryn Falb, a third-year doctoral student in HSPH’s Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, jumped at the chance to be paired with Sharon Greene, an epidemiologist in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, and an expert on food-borne illnesses. Greene was paired with Falb by Charles Deutsch, a senior research scientist at HSPH and head of the HC-CHIRP effort, who used the Harvard Catalyst Profiles to find the best faculty adviser for this project.