I was born and grew up in Petrópolis, a small city near Rio de Janeiro. My family is deeply committed to social justice, and involved in many community projects. This has been decisive for the choices I’ve made. Very early in my life I was engaged with a civil society organisation that worked with the social inclusion of children and adolescents. This experience had a profound impact in my heart. At that moment, I was sure I would work with social issues. After that, when choosing my professional career, I decided to work in public health, and I chose nutrition, because I could see how it can lead to public action.
During my undergraduate course at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, I learned a lot in the regular classes, and also in the students’ union, in which I was active. Thus, I learned about the rescue of the democratic process in my country, and about the role of the academy in developing countries.
In 1992, I began to work in the department of health of the municipality of Rio de Janeiro. I assessed programmes for children, adolescents and women developed in primary healthcare units, and projects linked to health promotion. I then realised that my vocation is to work in the interface between the academy and public policies.
After my PhD and appointment as a professor at the State University of Rio (UERJ) in 1999 I became director of the Institute of Nutrition Annes Dias, an institution linked to the city’s health department that is responsible for all the food and nutrition public policies of the municipality. This covers, for instance, the school food programme serving almost 800,000 students. Here I learned about collective processes, conflict mediation, and democratic practices.
I created a sector in the institute that is responsible for studies in food, nutrition and health monitoring systems and in designing, implementing and evaluating nutrition interventions. Nowadays, as the coordinator of this sector, I’m responsible to identify, with many partners, the key questions for the nutrition of Rio, which can be addressed by academic studies, to raise funds, and to develop such studies.
After leaving as director of the Institute, while continuing to work there, I returned to UERJ, where I work as an associate professor in the department of social nutrition This involves working with undergraduate students in a small and very poor town near Rio de Janeiro . In their theses, all my graduate students work with themes linked to the public health nutrition agenda of the municipality or of the Ministry of Health.
In the last two years, my new challenge has been creating and coordinating the food and nutrition task force of Abrasco, the Brazilian Association of Collective Health. Its mission is to accomplish the mission of Abrasco in public health nutrition. The task force includes researchers known for their academic work, from 20 different institutions and from different regions of Brazil.