Carlos Roberto Soto Díaz wants to improve food environments and health equity through effective public policy, particularly in his home country of Puerto Rico, but also in other Latin American countries. He is one of three new doctoral students who joined the Global Food Research Program (GFRP) this fall, where he will be researching under the advisership of GFRP faculty Lindsey Smith Taillie.
“Being a colony of the United States,” says Carlos, “There are a lot of inequities in Puerto Rico in terms of food access, food prices, and a high proportion of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. That’s something that has motivated me to study public health in hopes of contributing towards reducing the inequities that Puerto Ricans face.”
Carlos moved to North Carolina with his family in 2017 and currently lives in Wake Forest, NC. He has fond memories of Puerto Rico’s beaches and delicious food.
“The thing I enjoy the most is mofongo. It’s fried mashed plantains with garlic and oil, and it’s so good.”
While pursuing his Masters of Public Health in Applied Epidemiology at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, Carlos worked with GFRP alum Emily Duffy on a research project seeking to understand the experiences of Latina women using the WIC program during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a doctoral student, Carlos’s first project will be researching sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in Colombia prior to the implementation of Colombia’s new food policies
In addition to his work at GFRP, Carlos is also a part of the Global Cardiometabolic Research Program, which connects him with an in-country mentor in Colombia and will fund research visits to the country to assist with evaluating Colombia’s new front-of-package labeling and tax policies.
“I truly believe that these policies have the potential to address the food environment and contribute to better health outcomes.”
Carlos also looks forward to traveling and exploring the Colombian country and seaside. In his spare time, Carlos enjoys a variety of music genres and playing the electric guitar, which he picked up during the pandemic.