Born in New Ayoma, a village located in the Volta Region of Ghana, my fond childhood memories is associated with the western regional capital, Takoradi, where I grew up with my maternal grandmother, and later with my mother in Hohoe, an urban town located in the heart of the Volta Region. As a young child, I was fortunate not to be part of the high numbers of protein energy malnutrition recorded in the early 1980s as a result of nation-wide famine that hit the country. But while growing up, I fully understood what it meant to be hungry and satisfied. Like most Ghanaian children, my happiest moment was when I had eaten my favourite fried rice with chicken to my satisfaction.
During my secondary school days, my knowledge about nutrition did not extend beyond food groups and nutrients. In fact, I never conceived the idea of ever studying nutrition. To me, nutrition was next to catering and cookery, and that was enough repellent. My passion was to pursue a career in the health sciences and that was how I found myself at the Korle-bu Nursing Training College in Accra. As a student nurse, I observed that one of the core functions of nurses was health promotion and nutrition education was no exception. However, out of the over 30 subjects taught as part of the nursing training programme, only one had bearing on nutrition with a credit hour of just one. Besides, nurse educators who coordinated the nutrition and dietetics subject in most nursing and midwifery training institutions had little or no background in nutrition and therefore handled the subject myopically.
Determined to be one of the few Ghanaian nurses with academic and professional backgrounds in nutrition, I was challenged to undertake a BSc in Home Science at the University of Ghana, graduating with first-class honours and later an MPhil in Nutrition at the same institution. My perception of nutrition was entirely wrong. Presently, I am pursuing a Doctoral degree in Public Health at the University of Heidelberg in Germany on German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) scholarship and my research is focusing on gestational diabetes.
Seven years’ experience accrued from working with Ghana Health Service as a Registered Nurse and World Vision as Community Volunteer has greatly enhanced my understanding of the synergies between nutrition and health status. The Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation Short-term Fellowship I had in 2012 also afforded me the opportunity to network with researchers in the nutrition field across the globe, learn and share experiences. Now as a 2015 AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development) fellow, I have been equipped with interpersonal, leadership and science skills to be able to conduct gender-responsive nutrition research that will improve the quality of life of rural households.
In 2013, I joined the University of Health and Allied Sciences, one of the youngest public universities in Ghana located in the Volta Region, an area alien to research, as lecturer. My research activities within these few years has been focusing on gathering baseline data that will aid in the implementation of sustainable nutrition interventions in addition to the impact evaluation of existing programmes.
In Ghana, the double burden of undernutrition among vulnerable groups as well as the high prevalence of dietary-related non-communicable diseases among the general populace makes the study of nutritional sciences timely. Hence despite my career diversion, I can breathe an air of contention knowing that I still am contributing to health promotion. However, the antecedents that motivated my change of career from nursing to nutrition still linger in my memory and in the ensuing years, I will probe into the teaching of nutrition in nursing and midwifery training institutions.