Nutrition is key ingredient in drug addiction recovery
Q: Tell us about yourself, and how you developed interest in nutrition and dietetics.
A: My interest in nutrition started when I was doing my undergraduate degree in Food Science. The spike in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) prompted me to pursue a special course on behaviour change. My aim is to ensure the reduction of NCDs.
Q: Few Kenyans know about the institute. Why, and what is its role?
A: Initially, people thought this is a private institution but we are glad we are now fully recognised by the Ministry of Health as the regulator of the profession. The institute was established by an Act of Parliament to regulate the profession of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Our mandate is to provide for training, registration and licensing of nutritionists and dieticians, and to provide regulations for the standards and practice of the profession.
Q: How do diet and nutrition contribute to the attainment of Universal Health Care?
A: Realistically speaking, there is no way we can attain UHC if the nutrition aspect is left behind. This is because 70 per cent of the conditions that find their way to the hospitals have their roots from food.
Currently, UHC is focusing more on a curative rather than preventive approach and unless we shift from curative to preventive, UHC will remain a dream. Free medical services are not a recipe for the attainment of UHC.
As a country, we should have a comprehensive master plan for this. In short, UHC should be multi-sectoral, multi-ministerial and multi-expertise.
Actually, more focus should be given to nutrition. More nutritionists should be deployed to learning institutions to teach on healthy eating.
Q: What do you mean by healthy eating?
A: It means eating an amount of food that equals to the requirement of your body. Only a professional dietician can advise about this.
Q: How can KNDI assist the populace to eat better and, say, lessen obesity levels?
A: We are empowering Kenyans with health nutrition knowledge by creating awareness of healthy diets. We also publish research conducted by professionals. This year we will be publishing our first magazine, which will demystify myths and give facts about nutrition science.
Q: Are Kenyans healthier now than they were, say ten years ago and why?
A: No, actually the level of obesity is increasing every day because Kenyans think they know how to eat healthy and would not imagine a professional should tell them what to eat or not eat.
Unhealthy foods have shown up in the market, such as fast foods. Supermarkets have also come up with ready to eat foods, thus making many people abandon cooking.
That has made the situation worse. No one is sure the number of calories that accrue from such foods. As a country, we produce a lot of food but don’t utilise it well.
Q: Do you think the sector is given the attention it deserves?
A: We are doing badly nutrition-wise. This is because most interventions are donor-oriented and don’t meet the needs of Kenyans. This can be corrected if we come up with regulations.
Q: Quacks have infiltrated the sector, or so you said recently. How are you going to deal with this?
A: That is true; there are many quacks because nutrition is a field that augments medicine and has remained on the periphery of healthcare, thus creating room for quacks.
That is why there is a lot of misleading information on nutrition-sensitive and specific matters in the public domain through mainstream media and social media platforms.
We caution that any person who practises as a nutritionist or dietician without a registration certificate and licence commits an offence and may be liable for prosecution as per Section 32(2) of Cap 253 B of the Nutritionists and Dieticians Act.
Q: What should we expect from KNDI under your leadership over the next year?
A: My aim is to make KNDI an effective and efficient regulatory authority. Also, I hope to increase the number of nutritionists from the current 15,000 to 60,000 to help meet the demand from both the public and private sector.