Feature Article
    International Workshop on Capacity and Leadership Development in Nutritional Sciences
    Vol. 17 Issue 2
    Country: Singapore
    I was privileged to attend the International Workshop on Capacity and Leadership Development in Nutritional Sciences from the 4 to 6 September 2008 in Seoul, Korea. The workshop was held in the Hoam Convention Centre, in Seoul National University. Organized by the International Union of Nutritional Sciences and the Korean Nutrition Society, this workshop successfully lived up to its aim to develop young, promising nutritionists to be the next generation of leaders. The international workshop had three objectives, which were:

    1. To promote leadership skills among young nutrition scientists of Asia
    2. To strengthen capacities for innovation and cooperation
    3. To build network among the next generation of Asian nutrition scientists

    Twenty-six young nutritionists were selected from 13 Asian countries and Australia. The local national nutrition association of each country recommended them and the International Workshop committee finalized the list. I am deeply grateful for the recommendation support by the Singapore Nutrition and Dietetic Association (SNDA) to enable my participation in the International Workshop.

    The workshop program offered opportunities to build up leadership skills and to strengthen scholarship skills. Building a long-lasting network among the young invited scholars was heavily promoted. The international workshop program was largely divided into six sections – capacity development for leadership, leadership roles for nutritionists, professional writing for nutritionists, nutrition in Asia, capacity development for actions and a field trip.

    Capacity development for leadership –

    This segment addressed the necessary skills to become an effective leader, not only in the nutrition world but to become an influential person in general. Three sessions were created for this section, which were:

    a. Leadership development
    Topics covered include an aspect on self-leadership, leadership to others and the importance of personal competency versus character towards becoming an effective leader.

    b. Coaching skills
    Participants learned the definition, utility, and effective skills of coaching to become an effective and influential leader. The session tapped on the importance of emotional intelligence, problem solving, communication skills to influence and coach appropriately.

    c. Communication skills
    The session provided opportunities to uncover how nutritionists can work effectively with the mass media and other health professional towards a common goal of promoting and protecting the health of the people.

    Leadership roles for nutritionists –

    This section covered topics on research opportunities and leadership roles in nutrition. The importance of learning and reciprocate by mentoring came across as essential to maintain our professional career.

    Professional writing for nutritionists –

    This segment provided the fundamental knowledge on writing grant proposals and getting published in prominent academic journals. The participants also received valuable guidance on the components of writing for publication.

    Nutrition in Asia –

    The Nutrition in Asia section was an exciting session, held intermittently throughout the 3-day workshop. It consisted of “Country Reports”, which were snapshots of current nutritional focuses of the participating countries. The participating countries were Australia, Bangladesh, China/Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. There were priceless opportunities to learn about the current nutrition problems and directions of these countries. It clarified the problems that were common or unique in Asia and Australia.

    Capacity Development for Actions –

    This last session aimed to promote collaboration among the young participants through harmonization of nutritional goals, standards, and policies across nations.

    Research and nutrition policies are inter-related through five scenarios: 1) Setting nutrition standards, 2) Food-based dietary guidelines, 3) National Nutrition Surveys, 4) Criteria for food labeling, 5) Nutrition assistance programs.

    Dr Ricardo Uauy from the University of Chile and the current President of International Union of Nutritional Science (IUNS) provided a motivating segment on partnerships with the food industry. He inspired the young participants to widen the scope of nutritional problems beyond their country’s own. The 2008 Lancet series on maternal and child undernutrition was highlighted and the current consensus on effective international actions against undernutrition was discussed through international nutrition system and action.

    After thoughts

    All in all, it was an educational and inspiring experience to be part of the international leadership workshop: “Capacity and Leadership Development in Nutritional Science”. The holistic approach of this workshop has further enriched my journey to nourish and develop the profession of nutrition and dietetics in Singapore. It has certainly put Singapore on the regional map in terms of our unique nutritional health promotion directions and efforts. Hopefully, it will lead to further effective collaborations and multi directional learning with the other countries in Asia.

    A report by Ann Selina Chang Chia Yin, Singapore Nutrition & Dietetics Association, Singapore.