|Food and Nutrition Bulletin Volume 18, Number 2, 1997 (UNU Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 1997, 118 pages)|
|"Public nutrition": The need for cross-disciplinary breadth in the education of applied nutrition professionals|
The ideas presented in this paper were developed in part as a result of a study carried out at the Tufts School of Nutrition Science and Policy in 1994, with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts, to investigate the kinds of training needed for applied nutrition professionals, with a specific focus on the situation in Central America and Mexico . The study involved two separate surveys. One was a series of in-depth, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with 260 nutrition professionals from the United States, the region, and other parts of the world. Respondents included university professors, researchers, government officials at many levels from ministries to district programme officers, representatives of bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, and managers and practitioners from national and international non-governmental organizations. The sample was not random. Initial respondents were selected on the basis of their known involvement in the field of applied nutrition or their institutional affiliation, and these respondents referred us to others.
The second component of the study was a mailed survey to graduates of several graduate-level international nutrition programmes in the United States: the Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) International Nutrition Program, the Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy programme in Social Sciences of Applied Nutrition and Food Policy, and the United Nations University nutrition programme at MIT. The questionnaire, a mix of closed-and open-ended questions, asked respondents about the relevance and usefulness of various aspects of their graduate education in their careers, and about their career paths over time. We sent out about 200 questionnaires and received about 100 responses, of which 91 were complete enough to be usable. Our resources did not permit follow-up of non-respondents. The results reported here must be interpreted cautiously in light of the low response rate.
The results of both these surveys, and the comments of a group convened to discuss the preliminary results, are incorporated into the discussion that follows.