Bringing Nutrition into Health Systems: NNEdPro Global Nutrition Workshop for WHO Interns

Geneva, June 2019

The world today faces challenges from malnutrition in all its forms. One in three people are being directly affected by either underweight, micronutrient deficiencies or overweight, obesity and diet related non-communicable diseases. In fact, unhealthy diet is now the top risk factor for global deaths and is contributing to a vast number of people living with ill-health. However, nutrition capacity building among health personnel, who are often front runners in any given health systems, remains an under-prioritised issue.

On 27th  June, NNEdPro the Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, in collaboration with the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD), at the World Health Organization (WHO), organised an interactive training workshop on the importance of nutrition education at the WHO headquarter in Geneva, Switzerland.

The workshop, titled ‘’Bringing Nutrition into Health Systems: From Global Training Architecture to Local Implementation Models’’, was aimed to provide the WHO interns, who are aspiring to be the future experts within their respected health fields, with the necessary nutrition knowledge and tools. The opening remarks were delivered by the Director of NHD, Dr Francesco Branca who was delighted to co-host the very useful and first of its kind nutrition workshop for all the WHO interns. Organised jointly with the WHO human resources team, the workshop was conducted by Professor Sumantra Ray and Jorgen Johnsen from NNEdPro as well as Lina Mahy and Niisojo Torto from WHO.  

During the presentation the interns received an overview on malnutrition in all its forms; how it manifests, its risk factors and how our food systems is transitioning and contributing to unhealthy diets. Furthermore, they were informed about the Global Nutrition and diet-related non-communicable disease targets, outcomes from the Second International Conference on Nutrition, nutrition’s role in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda and the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition (Nutrition Decade) 2016-2025. The objective was to inspire and encourage the interns to identify potential solutions to end malnutrition in all its forms, through the use of an interactive presentation. The majority of the interns at WHO did not have a nutritional background, however as most of them would likely end up in health policy, medical research and practice or other health related fields, it is potentially important for them to understand how nutrition can affect health outcomes and how intertwined nutrition really is in determining health policy.

Further to the discussion, NNEdPro’s work as a global centre for nutrition and health was presented through NNEdPro’s four pillars: Training Professionals, Strengthening Research, Implementing Solutions and Addressing Inequalities. The mobile teaching kitchen model was presented and introduced as an action-research case study to be inspired by, and to think of how it could be modified and implemented in different geographical regions to help the interns with their brainstorming session. A key focus throughout the interactive presentations was nutrition education and training. This is not only a missing element in public health and healthcare professionals, but a vital solution to our global challenges of ending malnutrition by 2030.

During the latter part of the workshop, the interns were divided into smaller groups where they identified a region or country of their choice, applying various aspects of the Mobile Teaching Kitchen Model and envisioning solutions to close existing nutritional gaps in those regions.  

After the group exercise/activity, the interns presented their ideas for a similar nutrition knowledge model and suggested sustainable practices across health systems to solve malnutrition. The session for the workshop was structured around the aforementioned malnutrition issues and what the Nutrition Decade (2016-2025) can achieve in terms of scaling up nutrition needs. The regions picked by the interns and discussed spanned Central America, Australia, China, Senegal and USA. Their target populations ranged from immigrants, indigenous populations, rural communities and children in urban areas.

The main problems tackled were unhealthy diet or lack of nutritional knowledge. All of them focused on community-based solutions whether it was involvement in food preparation, community gardens or cooking fairs, as well as healthy carpool groceries for easy access afterschool hours. Overall the challenges they highlighted were legal issues, potential resentment, transient and hard to reach populations, lack of funding opportunities, and resource for implementation. The outcomes, on the other hand, were inspirational. The majority of them foresaw outcomes like empowerment/leadership, healthier populations, increased nutritional knowledge, and increased community engagement. And this was just a recap of the positive, solution-oriented atmosphere!

A lot of good and innovative ideas were shared and could potentially have an impact if further built on and funded!

What is next? Maybe another workshop next year? Or recurrently each year? Funding for one or more of the projects? Who knows with the next generation of engaging and enthusiastic health experts!

Key Takeaways:

  • Strengthen nutrition knowledge, attitudes and practices amongst WHO interns;
  • Use the NNEdPro Mobile Teaching Kitchen model to inspire the interns to develop other models that may help contribute to lessen the malnutrition burden in different regions;
  • Enable a Global Public Health Interns Network.

Written by Jorgen Torgerstuen Johnsen, Sucheta Mitra and edited by Sumantra Ray

Among the first Global Public Health Interns Network members are:

Alina Lack, Alyssa Palmquist, Ashley Moore, Cecily Wang, Florence Munro, Hannah Bergman, Juliette Mchardy, Karolina Zhukoff, Margherita Cina, Minjoung Shin, Nagouille Ndiaye, Neha Bhaskar, Neha Dhawan, Rachel Mathison, Rim Mouhaffel, Rishika Reddy, Sean Flannigan and Yu Zhang.

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