Nutrition Policy to Practice in Pakistan: Exploring the Challenges and Research Opportunities
  • As part of the ‘British Council Researcher Links’ funded research grant programs,  nutrition colleagues from Khyber Medical University, Dow University of Health Sciences, Noor Foundation, University of Central Lancashire Preston, University of Nottingham & University of Chester UK organized a joint workshop on "Nutrition Policy to Practice in Pakistan: Exploring the Challenges & Research Opportunities".  This workshop was held from 8-11 March, 2015, at Serena Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan and provided an opportunity for 35 early career researchers from the two countries to interact, learn from each other, and explore opportunities for building long-lasting research collaborations.
               
    Dr Nilofer Fatmi Safdar, ICDA representative for Pakistan and currently the program director for Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, Dow University of Health Sciences was among the three Pakistani recipients of the grant to organize this international workshop. Five of the selected participants were members of Pakistan Nutrition & Dietetic Society (PNDS) including the current president and joint secretary. This workshop provided early career researchers (ECR) to present their research and get feedback from the experts in the field from both countries. The workshop was focused on building links for future collaboration and the participants were selected on the basis of their research potential and a strong background in nutritional sciences.
               
    The workshop was inaugurated by the director, Higher Education Commission, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed and provincial health secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) of Pakistan. Professor Mukthiar Zaman, Khyber Medical University and Professor Nicola Lowe, University of Central Lancashire gave introductory speeches emphasizing the need of collaborative research to deal with the complex problem of malnutrition in Pakistan.  Ms. Helen Bingley, CEO, Abaseen Foundation, delivered a talk on prevalence of malnutrition in KPK and stressed the need to improve education and primary health care system in Pakistan to alleviate high rates of malnutrition.
     

     
    The scientific program included plenary lectures on nutrition policies, micronutrient malnutrition, role of agriculture, food fortification, human resource development in nutrition focusing on university training, role of media in social marketing of nutrition messages, multi-sectoral challenge in tackling malnutrition, iron deficiency and consequences of malnutrition among adolescent girls in Pakistan.  Dr.Nilofer F Safdar delivered a lecture on "Nutrition Policy in Pakistan: Exploring Challenges & Research Needs." In her talk, she highlighted the lack of trained people and expertise in public health nutrition, inadequate research opportunities for those working in nutrition and related sciences, and nutrition policy development issues in Pakistan. Dr. Tauseef Janjua, Director, Micronutrient Initiative (MI) Pakistan, discussed on salt iodization, iron supplements and vitamin A initiatives to reduce micronutrient malnutrition in Pakistan. Prof Nicola Lowe spoke on raising awareness on the benefits of iodized salt through community engagement. Speakers from the agriculture and the food industry
    emphasized the role of agriculture and food fortification to reduce micronutrient malnutrition across Pakistan.  Prof Basma Ellahi, from University of Chester discussed on capacity building focusing on university training needs for nutrition professionals. Nadeem Iqbal from the Network for Consumer Protection Pakistan spoke on the importance of social media in marketing of nutrition messages in the country.
               
    Several oral presentations by ECR from UK and Pakistan were delivered on different topics including, innovative nutrition research methods, nutrition transition, health benefits of phenols & isoflavones, micronutrient food fortification, dietary behaviors, etc. On the last day of the workshop participants worked in groups to choose a theme area of their research interest and develop a research proposal. Among the themes that resulted out of small group discussions were non communicable diseases, agriculture, research methodology, and education and training in nutrition. The symposium concluded with acknowledgment to the organizers and supporters and a pledge by HEC to fund a nutrition project to address the complex issue of malnutrition in Pakistan. Certificates were awarded to the participants and 6 book prizes were given for the best oral presentations of the participants. Such events are a great opportunity to promote collaborative research and provide a platform to engage with professionals in the field of nutritional sciences and to build long lasting research collaborations among international colleagues.

     
    Dr Nilofer Fatimi Safdar
    Nutrition Program Director, School of Public Health
    Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi
    Past President (2007-09 & 2011-13) PNDS
    Country Rep, ICDA