Date of release: Wednesday, April 10, 2013

University of Greenwich Academic Supports Professional Training in Nutrition Education in Africa

Dr Paul Amuna, a Principal Lecturer at the School of Science on the Medway Campus and a consultant in international nutrition and public health is currently working with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations to build capacity among nutrition professionals and practitioners in African Higher Education institutions.

Africa faces a multiple burden of nutrition-related diseases ranging from undernutrition to obesity and its related chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Recent World Health Organisation analysis shows that not only are most of the high burden countries in Africa, the majority of these countries are also unlikely to meet the targets set for reaching the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Dr Amuna says that though the targets and ambitions set for improving food security and nutrition in poor countries such as Scaling Up Nutrition interventions (SUN) are laudable, these cannot be realised without a well-trained, knowledgeable health and nutrition workforce. He also argues that merely receiving academic training in nutrition and related subjects is not enough, but that professional training in how to effectively communicate these nutrition messages to different audiences is essential, if we are to make progress in changing dietary behaviour, improving food choices and improving health within different social and cultural contexts.

In 2011, the FAO undertook a Needs Analysis in Higher Education institutions in 7 African countries. The “7-Country Survey” found huge gaps in curricula for the training of health and nutrition professionals including lacking in Nutrition Education components. This led to the first curriculum development workshop on professional training in nutrition education (ENACT) which was held from 16 – 20 July 2012 in Aburi, Ghana which Dr Amuna was invited by the FAO to co-facilitate. Over the following six months, a full Module on Nutrition Education and Communication has been developed to help address those gaps with inputs from senior academics from 35 different African countries, six of which have been selected to pilot the course.

Dr Amuna who is an FAO consultant, says the next steps are to run the second ENACT Curriculum Development Workshop in Kampala, Uganda from 22 – 26th April 2013 with the participating African Higher Education institutions and to finalise the end product for piloting. “I am particularly excited that this is not a top-down approach, but an active process of involvement and co-ownership which allows our African partners to have a significant input and be able to advocate for change within their own institutions and countries”.

 “I am delighted to be a part of this very important and exciting project and believe it will result in a sea change in the way nutrition is both taught and practised in Africa, and hopefully have a significant and long term impact on the outcomes of nutrition programmes and interventions to Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) and tackle chronic NCDs in Africa”.

Details of the ENACT programme can be found at www.fao.org/ag/humannutrition/nutritioneducation/enact.