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Effective nutrition education to promote healthy eating in Eastern and Southern Africa

FAO supports training of future nutrition leaders in promoting healthy diets

Young girl eating cassava meal in Mbaiki Central African Republic: (Photo: ©FAO)

2 July 2015, Nairobi, Kenya: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Kenyatta University is holding a training workshop for academics responsible for teaching East and Southern Africa’s future nutritionists. Running from the 29th of June to 3rd of July 2015 in Nairobi, the workshop will give the participants the opportunity to learn more about FAO’s Education for Effective Nutrition in Action (ENACT) course on nutrition education. Nutrition education involves helping people gain the knowledge and skills they need to make good food choices needed for healthy living.

The FAO Enact Project was launched in 2012 with the financial support of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The project’s aim is to develop professional capacities in nutrition education. So far, the module has been successfully piloted by more than 100 students in seven African countries. 

“It is important to prepare and equip future nutritionists with the tools and skills they need to carry out effective nutrition education. This will make a lasting contribution towards eradicating malnutrition in Eastern and Southern Africa,” said Rob Allport, Assistant FAO Representative for Programme Implementation in Kenya. ‘While it is important to ensure access and availability of healthy food, people need learn how to make better food choices and ways to fully utilise the nutritional value of what is locally available to them’ he noted.

In attendance are 22 participants representing nine Kenyan universities and ten universities and institutions based in Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and UNICEF Kenya. 

In her opening remarks, the chairperson of the Kenya Nutritionists & Dieticians Institute (KNDI) Hon. Prof. Julia Ojiambo thanked FAO and Kenyatta University for presenting the  ENACT model for training in nutrition education. She informed the participants about the implementation status  of  the KNDI ACT No. 18 of 2007 which has culminated in making visible changes in the training processes for nutrition and dietetics in Kenya. The ENACT materials will be assessed by KNDI as the Regulator of the profession and hopefully space will be found for this training complement in the CPDs and Internship programs that KNDI is rolling out  for indexed students.

Learning to make healthy food choices for healthy living

A needs assessment carried out in 2010 in Africa by FAO showed that relevant professional training in nutrition education was urgently needed in the region.  It noted that many institutions of higher learning that teach nutrition do not have nutrition education training programmes or trainers; where it does exist, it is often a small element in university degrees, and almost always taught using an academic lecture-based approach. The needs assessment identified an acute need for qualified instructors and formative research and evaluation.  The ENACT undergraduate course was developed so as to address the gaps identified.

The workshop facilitators, Prof. Judith Kimiywe and Dr. Dorcus Mbithe from Kenyatta University, believe it is essential that nutrition training institutions are able to deliver training in effective nutrition education to future or current nutrition professionals. All professionals in the health and food sectors need to know how to promote healthy diets and good dietary practices to address nutrition problems. 

Heavy reliance on starchy staples, low consumption of vegetables and fruits and a limited understanding of the link between the food we eat and the effect it has on our health are important factors that hinder healthy eating among the general public in East and Southern Africa.

Building the foundation for effective nutrition education

Effective nutrition education to promote healthy eating behaviours will contribute to addressing the problems of nutritional deficiencies and overweight/obesity in the region.

The ENACT module is the first step towards the goal of developing sufficient numbers of well qualified professionals who will enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills to implement action-oriented nutrition education. 

This also includes persuading policy and decision makers to take actions that make healthy foods more available and affordable so that it becomes easier for people to make good food choices. It is one of the major recommendations of the FAO-WHO Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) held in Rome, Italy, in November 2014.

The workshop follows a successful training workshop held from 1st to 5th June in Accra, Ghana for West Africa that brought together academics from Ghana and Nigeria. Nine new universities were directly reached, with one of the universities (the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria) already starting to offer the ENACT course, and others following later this year.

 

Related Link:

http://www.fao.org/ag/humannutrition/nutritioneducation/69725/en/

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