The Israel Ministry of Health hosted a meeting of the WHO Regional Office for Europe with Nutrition Focal Points from 10-13 March. The aim of the meeting was to develop a draft action plan for food and nutrition for Europe, to be formally adopted in Vienna in July 2013. The meeting consisted of short presentations of the challenges, recent developments and highlighted some examples of different approaches being adopted in Member States. The Association were invited to attend as Advisors, and asked to make a presentation on the importance of improving nutrition capacity within the health sector for the success of the Action Plan.
The main thrust of the presentation was that a well-trained workforce, working in a supportive environment, was crucial for the effective implementation of actions covered by the action plan. While this challenge has been recognised by WHO in recent drafts of both the Global Action Plan and Health 2020, there was still a lack of detail as to how this would be developed. Given the timescales for action, plans need to be realistic as to what can be achieved
in the short and medium term. Calls for revisions to the undergraduate training of health professionals, while admirable, will take many years to be agreed by academic institutions, to be implemented, for students to attend and graduate, and for them to subsequently be employed in a work-setting to be able to apply these new skills. For medical training this will take ten years. While these changes are being put in place other actions are required in the next three years that can begin to make a difference.
The Association is discussing with WHO how it can help assess the current state of workforce readiness in a number of key Member States that continue to have the double burden of malnutrition and very limited primary care infrastructure.