I was born in Brasília – the capital of Brazil, which is a special country. There is an immense and intense mix of European and Asian immigrants (Portuguese, African, Spanish, Italians, Germans, Japanese, Lebanese, among many others) together with the Brazilian native populations. This mixture has shaped our food systems and our culture in general. Brazil is an enormous country with plenty of sunshine, fresh water and productive land. But a significant portion of the population lives in poverty, while at the same time obesity and chronic diseases have increased. We in public health nutrition here, have much to do.
I finished my undergraduate degree in nutrition in 1991 in the University of Brasília. I then worked both in the community in Paranoá, Brasilia, and as a hospital clinical nutritionist. From 1998 to 2001 I studied for a master’s degree in nutrition, at the Federal University of Bahia, in partnership with the Institute of Collective Health. In these leading institutions, I was able to expand my knowledge of the history of public health in Brazil, Latin America, and globally. I also learned meta-analysis techniques in undertaking systematic reviews.
In 2007 I began my PhD at the University of Brasília with a thesis entitled ‘Obesity as an expression of social issues: nutrition and stigma’. This used Pierre Bourdieu’s models of social constructivism and his theory of ‘framing’. I examined the relationship between food and nutrition, and the health system in Brazil, considering social, macroeconomic and geopolitical issues. My thesis also involved consideration of ethics related to stigma and discrimination of obese people.
In 2008 and 2009 I worked for the Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights, and Gender (ANIS) whose mission is to promote bioethics and human rights in a feminist matrix of social justice. ANIS is the only nongovernmental organisation in its field in Latin America. I was selected in 2009 to participate in the Programme in Ethics Capacitación La Investigación, at the Fogarty International Center of the US National Institutes of Health in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for four months.
My PhD led me to the University of Alberta in Canada for five months, to carry out research in the literature on obesity. I then joined the research group of the Observatory of Food Security and Nutrition Policies (OPSAN) at the University of Brasília, to work on what are and should be the core competencies of public health nutritionists in Brazil. Partnerships and support have enabled the establishment of the nutrition network in health systems. This is a social network that involves about 5,000 professionals and those interested in a nutrition and health. The work includes building a consensus on competencies of nutritionists in public health, and also the development of a reference framework for food and nutrition education for public policies.
My abiding interest and motivation is to keep on with my research in the field of food and culture, especially in the sociology of food. My trajectory in nutrition has allowed me to reflect more deeply on the ways of this science.
I had the wonderful opportunity to join the group of OPSAN in World Nutrition Rio2012 conference.