Posted on 01/14/2010 at 04:06:19 PM by Student BloggerBy: Harini S.
As we approach the holiday season, we are constantly being reminded to give to those less fortunate than us – either through volunteers seeking donations or through TV commercials highlighting the plight of children in developing countries. As a person from such a developing nation, I have always hated these commercials, because I felt that they painted a terrible image of these nations to the Western viewer. But on my recent trip back home to India, I had to concede that these images are sometimes closer to the truth than I care to admit.
Those of us that receive our education in the more fortunate developed world spend little time thinking about the sorts of issues that the study of nutrition was originally focused on – issues dealing with undernutrition. Clean drinking water, abundant supply of nutritive foods, and sufficient financial resources to procure food are factors that most of us take for granted in our daily lives. However, a large part of our world is as yet unable to supply its citizens with enough sustenance for a disease-free life.
As Dr. Juan Rivera, interviewed by student blogger Rebecca K., states, the developing world faces a double burden of overconsumption of calories and macronutrients in the richer segments of society coupled with insufficient availability of nutrition in the lower socioeconomic strata. Although I have spent the majority of my academic career focusing on problems resulting from excessive caloric intake, one of the most meaningful projects that I was able to participate in as a student was one that involved utilizing indigenous food ingredients to create calorically-dense supplements for AIDS-afflicted children in Uganda. This experience highlighted to me the need for more of us in the nutrition community to become at least somewhat involved in understanding and addressing the challenges of the developing world and its people.
Many universities offer courses that involve field work in countries that face different public health burdens than those of the United States. One such course that springs to mind is one offered at my alma mater, University of Wisconsin-Madison, where students participate in a semester-long seminar course that culminates in a 3-week trip to Uganda. Here, they can witness and study first-hand the health-related issues faced by the people of this nation. This experience leaves an indelible impression in students' minds and has already resulted in the creation of the Village Health Project, a nonprofit endeavor to support health and nutrition projects in developing countries. Thus far, this project has successfully set up rainwater purification tanks to provide potable water to communities in Uganda.
As many of you think about the kinds of courses that you will take or projects that you will participate in as students of Nutrition, I hope that more will be able to seek out courses that will benefit those less fortunate than us. If you have had the opportunity to participate in such a project, please consider commenting and sharing your experiences and impressions with other readers of this ASN blog. If you would like more information regarding the Village Health Project, it is available at: http://www.villagehealthproject.org/.