The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is collaborating with the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine (PGIM), Colombo, to organize a training for young medical doctors who are future leaders in the field of nutrition care in Sri Lanka. In August 2016, as part of the MSc. in Human Nutrition course offered by the PGIM, learners will follow the FAO ‘Education for Effective Nutrition in Action (ENACT)’ course on nutrition education.

The FAO ENACT Project was launched in 2012 with the financial support of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The project’s aim is to develop professional capacities in nutrition education and was originally developed for African universities. The module has been successfully used in 12 African countries and FAO is currently working to introduce the course to Indian Universities in 2017, and further expanding to other Asian countries and Latin America.

Nutrition education assists people to gain the knowledge and skills they require to make good food choices for healthy living. It is essential to prepare and equip future nutrition professionals with the tools and skills they need in order to carry out effective nutrition education. This will make a lasting contribution towards eradicating malnutrition in Asia. While it is important to ensure access and availability of healthy food, people need to learn how to fully utilize the nutritional value of foods locally available to them.

A needs assessment carried out in 2010 by FAO showed that relevant professional training in nutrition education was urgently needed. The assessment concluded that many of the institutions of higher learning that teach nutrition, especially in developing countries do not have nutrition education training programmes or trainers; where the capacity does exist, nutrition is often a small element in university degrees and almost always taught using an academic lecture-based approach. The assessment identified an acute need for qualified instructors and formative research and evaluation. The ENACT course was developed so as to address the gaps identified.

“Effective nutrition education to promote healthy eating behaviours will contribute to addressing the nutritional deficiencies and overweight/obesity which co-exist in Sri Lanka. FAO is very encouraged by the interest in the ENACT module as it is the first step towards the goal of developing sufficient numbers of well qualified professionals who will enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills to implement action-oriented nutrition education in Sri Lanka,” said the FAO Representative, Nina Brandstrup.

This also includes persuading policy and decision makers to take actions that make healthy foods more available and affordable so that it becomes easier for people to make good food choices. It is one of the major recommendations of the FAO-WHO Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) held in Rome, Italy, in November 2014.
Last year, the ENACT module was offered for the first time as part of the PGIM MSc in Human Nutrition, sponsored by FAO Sri Lanka in collaboration with UNICEF Sri Lanka. According to Dr Renuka Jayatissa (Head of the Department of Nutrition at the Medical Research Institute of Colombo) who co-ordinates the MSc course, ENACT was well received by Sri Lankan doctors, who reported making good use of what they had learned on the course.

The course will be tutored by Dr Sumal Nandasena (National Institute of Health Sciences), Dr GaminiJayakody (UNICEF Sri Lanka) and Dr Amanthi Bandusena (Health Education Bureau), who received on-the-job training on delivering the course last year. Dr Ramani Wijesinha-Bettoni (Nutrition Officer, FAO Rome) who was part of the team that developed the ENACT course will be visiting to provide support with the implementation of the course.