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Nahla Hwalla

Nahla Hwalla 135 x 180My commitment is to keep nutrition on the agenda of my country and region. I have devoted my career to develop and expand the nutrition and dietetics programme in Lebanon, seeking national, regional and international recognition, and to establish nutrition and dietetics as a recognised and respected profession in the region.

I earned my PhD in basic medical sciences (nutrition) from the American University of Beirut, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University – St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. I am also a registered dietitian with the American Dietetic Association.

Lebanon and the countries of the Middle East face unprecedented nutrition transition challenges. To tackle nutrition problems related to health and well being of the people of Lebanon and the region is essential to me. I established the first academic programme in nutrition and dietetics in the country and the region at the nutrition and food sciences (NFSC) department at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. The programme has grown from an unknown specialty to a highly recognised and sought-after field of study. In recognition of its contribution to nutrition, the NFSC Department was designated as a WHO Collaborating Center for research, training and outreach in food and nutrition in December 2007, where I act as the head of the center. The first country-wide associated research unit for undernutrition and obesity in Lebanon was established in 2009.

I have directed my research on nutrition in Lebanon and the region focusing on obesity, its prevalence, determinants, and dietary manipulation to curb its effects. In addition, I have provided Lebanon with the first country profile on nutrition. I founded the first NGO for nutritionists and dieticians in Lebanon and the region, the Lebanese Association for Nutrition and Food Sciences (LANFS). Through LANFS, I formulated the national decree for licensing dietitians by the Lebanese government; hence making dietetics a protected profession in the country.