Once I enrolled in undergraduate nutrition and dietetic studies, I knew that prevention was the only route that made sense to me. After my internship, I decided that I would go anywhere – as long as it was Public Health. My first job was in a small Northern community in Canada. But straight out of school, I didn’t think it made sense when people asked me to come and teach them how to cook, when I had so much expertise in nutrition to offer them. Understanding that these two cannot be separated was lesson number one.
However, the monumental shifts in my outlook began a decade later – in the mid 1990s – when I became immersed in the determinants of health, food security and food policy in British Columbia, Canada. First, I worked on a project in partnership with community members living in low income. Here, I became the student. I learned about the politics of poverty, the daily affronts to their dignity, and understood that lining up in a food bank to receive out-of-date food was not a first choice for people. On the other hand, I also began my education in food politics and food policy. I learned about, and began to speak about the impact of the broader environment and food systems on our food choices. A career highlight was chairing/co-chairing the process to successfully advocate for Food Security as a Core Public Health Program in British Columbia, Canada.
More recently, I have been working as the “Coordinator of National Policies and Nutrition Programs with the Supreme Council of Health in Qatar. The main task has been the development of Qatar’s first dietary guidelines. I am especially pleased that it will likely be the first dietary guideline world-wide to integrate sustainability principles. I will be returning to Canada in 2014, where I will further my work and research in sustainable diets.
In the WPHNA, I am thrilled to find a group of like-minded people at an international level, who are working to position Public Health Nutrition and ecological nutrition where it should be – as a driver for food systems, rather than as a consequence of it.