Working in public health nutrition is fascinating, fulfilling and frustrating, for the same reasons. It overlaps with many of the important issues in the community – poverty and disadvantage, health disparities, globalisation, climate change – and there is a sense that public health nutritionists can make a difference. I grew up in rural Australia and commenced my nutrition career as a clinical dietician. My shift into public health nutrition came early on when I was recruited for a position as provincial nutritionist in Papua New Guinea. The experience confirmed for me the potential that action around nutrition issues has for contributing to community health and development, and set my career path.
Following graduate study in the USA, I took up a position at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. The UQ position and location has given me the opportunity for broad experience in public health nutrition, including professional postings, research, teaching, consultancy and advisory positions, and for working throughout the Asia-Pacific region, with the principal areas being Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the USA.
I have a longstanding interest in using research to strengthen nutrition policy and programming, extending across topics such as food insecurity, food systems, micronutrient malnutrition, and cancer prevention. My particular expertise is related to nutrition monitoring and surveillance, and programme/ policy evaluation.
My current research focuses on three main areas. First, implementation research, to identify the contextual and organisational factors that lead to successful delivery of nutrition programmes/services. Second, examination of the extent of heterogeneity and change in nutrition conditions across communities, and the implications of these for policy and programmes. Third, assessment of the effectiveness of research into cancer prevention and related chronic diseases.
Nutrition is an integrative science. The challenge for public health nutrition is that it is both integrative and collaborative. That is, the major advances in the field will come from multi-disciplinary research, and cross-sector action.