|Food and Nutrition Bulletin Volume 18, Number 2, 1997 (UNU Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 1997, 118 pages)|
|Working Group report on developing a national pyramid for advanced training in food and nutrition|
The development of human resources for planning and implementing food and nutrition programmes to address the needs of communities in the developing world requires a problem-oriented, integrated approach. It should start at the country level, continuing at the regional level and linking these efforts to applied research centres of excellence in developing and developed countries.
Role of the national advanced training centres/networks
The national centres are institutions linked to universities or represent centres of excellence within the non-governmental organization or private sector. The process by which a national training pyramid is constructed requires both an understanding of the context of the nutritional situation and an examination of the organizational structures, functions, and interactions of the personnel engaged in nutrition-related activities in both the governmental and non-governmental sectors and in academic and community-based programmes.
The position and responsibilities of the individual personnel categories should be determined, along with the role they play in the implementation of the national nutrition programmes to assess training needs. The site and location of training and the methods by which the training can be achieved also should be indicated. The identification of process and outcome indicators will help develop a proper evaluation of the qualitative and quantitative aspects of training. This will enable mid-course corrections and minimize inappropriate duplication of regional and global efforts.
The development of training networks also requires an examination of national organizational structures and functions of governmental and non-governmental personnel engaged in nutrition activities. The professional background, positions, and responsibilities in nutrition of the personnel and the nutrition-related services and training needs are assessed. This process is expected to provide an opportunity to assess the qualifications of available personnel and quantify the individuals needed for each category of a training pyramid.
Local capacity for the development and implementation of food and nutrition programmes and planning also should be developed. Focus should be given to training field personnel, government planners, and university-based professionals. The training activities should be problem oriented and carried out close to the working environments of the trainees. The duration of the training activities should be as efficient as possible and of optimal length, and the contents related directly to the individual needs of the trainee. The advanced training programme should concentrate efforts on those countries which have ongoing food and nutrition programmes or are in the process of developing them.
Special emphasis should be placed on the poorest and neediest countries, where malnutrition still has a direct impact on survival. Efforts to develop national advanced training pyramids should be concentrated on the most affected countries in a given region, not on the countries where it is easiest to establish them.
Role of the regional advanced training centres/networks
Regional centres are institutions linked to universities or centres of excellence within the non-governmental organization or private sector. They should be encouraged to develop training opportunities for planners, technical-level professionals at the sectoral agencies, and national leaders in health and nutrition. Teaching programmes should be problem oriented and focused on successful national experiences of nutrition within their regions. Modular frameworks should be examined to improve the time efficiency of programmes.
In successive fashion, modules may lead to a postgraduate degree granted by regional centres. Selection processes of degree programmes should take into account the needs of the country and the professional experience of individual applicants. Interactions with academic staff from other centres within the region or with international centres should be sought to complement areas that are weak or lacking at regional centres.
In addition, regional centres should develop and implement new methodologies and strategies that are relevant to the solution of nutrition and health problems of high priority. For example, trainees should be capable of the assessment of community perceptions of nutrition and food problems, evaluation of programmes and policies, and impact and cost-effectiveness analysis of intervention.
Role of the international advanced training centres/networks
These institutions should be linked to universities. The role of the international centres is to transfer and develop new concepts and methodologies for the implementation of food and nutrition programmes. International centres should make visiting staff available to regional centres and participate in national training programmes and regional research networks. Visiting staff should be capable of reviewing training programmes of regional centres. This is necessary because of the limited number of persons trained at the doctoral level in most regional and national centres.
The international centres should recruit appropriate candidates for postgraduate (master's and doctoral) programmes from individuals with whom they interact in regional training networks. This will enhance local capacity-building. Their knowledge of local and regional realities should improve the relevance of training programmes and applied research activities.
Support from international agencies and donors
The role of the international agencies in the implementation of a national advanced training pyramid requires coordinated efforts based on specific agency interests and priorities. Those that support specific projects and programmes should include training of category I professionals in project funding, because those personnel are a prerequisite for programme success. Presently most agencies are investing insufficiently in advanced training of human resources and institutional development.
To sustain programmatic efforts over time, it also is vitally important to train individuals from category II, the group responsible for research and programme planning and development. These are the institution builders, who support the training of individuals in category I and significantly influence those in decision-making policy roles. The mandate of the UNU and of other international and bilateral agencies addresses the need for advanced training of categories II and III. The training of these individuals is important for successful policy and programme implementation in the medium and long term.
The potential impact of regional networks in strengthening the development of a national advanced training pyramid is significant. New modes of electronic communications, distance learning, and videoconferences enhance the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of regional networks. Whenever possible, regional networks should include a mix of academic centres from industrialized and non-industrialized countries with interests in common nutrition problems or in those more specific to developing countries.