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Ana Lucia Mayen

Ana Lucia Mayen 130 x 180I decided to pursue nutrition because this profession would give me the privilege of helping others and promoting the health of people, especially those who need it the most. In Guatemala, the majority of people that cope with diseases are those with a low income, and they suffer from disease due to lack of access to food, health services, education and opportunities.

After finishing my nutrition degree, I worked in the Pan-American Health Organization in Guatemala, which allowed me to work together with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and other UN agencies towards decreasing the number of deaths due to acute under nutrition. This calamity state was declared after a series of natural disasters (drought, tropical storms and a volcano eruption). After experiencing the satisfaction of working hard and watching the results obtained that benefited the lives of children in need, I decided this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: work hard to decrease under nutrition.

Even though nutrition is a large subject that covers numerous areas, the field of public health has always caught my special attention. The reason is that I believe that if I work in public health, with the appropriate experience and education, I can reach a job position where I can make decisions that support my country’s development and progress, promoting the health of people who need it most. Furthermore, I can use Guatemala’s example to support development and progress in other countries. I got accepted in a Master’s degree in Public Health in Barcelona, and my Master’s thesis, which I wrote jointly with the Catalan Institute of Oncology, was published this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Five months ago, I finished my internship in the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, located in Geneva and hosted by the World Health Organization. It helped me to learn how intersectoral work can be used to improve the livelihoods of people living in developing countries. I became aware of how these intersectoral approaches are needed to tackle the problems, instead of focusing only on the health sector. It also made me aware of the high prevalence of stunting in Guatemala and in other low-countries in Africa and Asia, which increased my passion towards working to decrease stunting. While working at the UNSCN, I was also able to participate some of the Committee’s publications regarding subjects like climate change and nutrition, nutrition information in crisis situations, and the SCN News, number 39.

Now I am back in Guatemala, working in the Comprehensive Center for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases in Mesoamerica and Panama, where I have been introduced to the reality of the double burden of malnutrition, especially in Guatemala, where an increasing number of children are overweight and obese, even when we have one of the highest rates of stunting in the world. I intend to keep working towards the decrease of the double burden in developing countries, hand in hand with the local governments, the UN agencies, civil society and other important participants.

I studied nutrition in the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. Afterwards I worked in PAHO and in the Ministry of Education in Guatemala regarding wasting, stunting, and nutrition and food security projects. I pursued graduate studies in public Hhalth in Universitat Pompeu Fabra- Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. I did a six month internship at UN SCN (hosted by WHO), and I am currently working in a research centre for the prevention of non- communicable diseases related to nutrition in the region. I am interested in pursuing a PhD regarding the double burden of nutrition in developing countries and I am learning intensively the French language.