Co-founder and executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Michael F. Jacobson, received the 2010 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation Hero Award this week.

The CDC Foundation honored Jacobson for his, “instrumental role in improving public health by championing science-based nutrition and food safety initiatives, empowering consumers to make healthful choices and encouraging scientists to engage in public interest activities.”

Jacobson’s organization is a nonprofit health advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. that focuses on nutrition and food safety.  CSPI is a leader in the movement to prevent diet-related chronic diseases and food-borne illnesses in America.  The organization educates both consumers and encourages the government and corporations to take steps in order to protect the public’s health.

Jacobson earned the Foundation Hero Award for his work using education, legislation and litigation to win important reforms, including laws requiring nutrition information on most food labels and warning notices on alcoholic beverage labels.

“As our nation’s health care costs continue to rise due in significant part to the growth of preventable, diet-related problems in our population, Dr. Jacobson’s seminal work will continue to play a critical role in our nation’s public health for many years to come,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who nominated Jacobson to receive the CDC honor.

CSPI made international headlines after its studies on nutritional quality of restaurant meals influenced many major chains to add more healthful items to their menus.  

Jacobson and CSPI also address junk-food marketing aimed at kids, the nutritional quality of school meals, microbial contamination of foods, and the safety of food additives.

“Obesity is an epidemic in this country,” says Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “CDC and other public health scientists conduct research to identify the causes of obesity and to determine the best strategies to fight obesity at the community and national levels.  Dr. Jacobson and CSPI have mobilized thousands of individuals, organizations and policymakers to help put that science into action.”

First presented in 2005, the CDC Foundation Hero Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to improving the public’s health through exemplary work in advancing CDC’s mission of promoting health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury and disability.  Previous recipients include:

– Dr. William Foege,  senior fellow of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and former CDC director

– Dr. Paul Farmer, founding director of Partners In Health

-Sir Michael Marmot, director of the University College London International Institute for Society and Health and MRC Research Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health

-Raymond J. Baxter, senior vice president for community benefit for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals

-Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani