George Davis and Elena Serrano, professors in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, were awarded the 2017 Quality of Communication Award for their book, “Food and Nutrition Economics: Fundamentals for Health Sciences,” during the annual Agricultural and Applied Economics Association meetings held in Chicago earlier this month.

The award represents one of the highest achievements within the field and recognizes publications that contribute thoughtful, relevant, and timely information in a manner that is both clear and meaningful to readers. Each year, the award is presented to one or two individuals.

“It’s one of those awards that early on in your career you never dream of getting,” said Davis, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. “It means a lot from a historical perspective when I consider my personal journey through the profession, a profession I respect and one to which I have devoted countless hours and brain power over the years.”

An applied economist for more than 20 years, Davis has focused on the economics of health and nutrition for over a decade, teaching a course on the subject and contributing to journals in the economics, nutritional, health, and medical fields.

“I consider it a blessing, a God thing,” said Davis. “Oxford University Press, the second-oldest academic publisher in the world, approached me out of the blue about writing a book to fill a gap in the market. And it was just the type of book I had been thinking about.” 

Davis partnered with Serrano, a professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, where Davis holds a joint appointment. Their book was published by the medical division of Oxford University Press in 2016.

“We all stand on the shoulders of giants.” Davis said, quoting Sir Isaac Newton. “All I did was translate what others have taught me using the tools the good Lord has given me.” 

Davis and Serrano’s book was selected for the 2017 AAEA award for its widespread relevance, meeting demand from health science professionals and academics, along with its clarity of composition, unique content, and economic importance. Written for a diverse audience, the book grounds itself in the fundamentals of both nutrition and economics before delving into modern food and health applications with real-world case studies.

“Economics is as much art as it is science,” Davis said. “You can’t just take the abstract theories or models straight out of a standard microeconomics textbook and apply them to anything. You have to understand the application, in this case, food and nutrition, and how to tweak your model to accurately assess the economic impact or environment of a specific situation.”

The book reaches the interdisciplinary space between economics and health science and provides resources for others to explore this territory. As questions of nutrition, food, and health continue to surge in academic, social, and political arenas, Davis and Serrano’s book provides apt economic tools for health professionals, policymakers, and academics facing a new wave of concerns, challenges, and opportunities surrounding human health and nutrition.

Written by Jillian Broadwell