It is mid-2020 already! Whilst the world has changed unimaginably in the past six months, the one thing that never changes is the ever marching passage of time. Half of the year has gone by and swept us off our course completely with the combined impacts of the pandemic, increasing climate change effects in the background and a peak into the visibility of struggles against minority oppression in the foreground. Whilst we didn’t anticipate facing such challenges this year, we probably also could not have predicted just how many opportunities there would be to advance our learning and insights in just a few months!
On the technical front by being at the helm of our Nutrition and COVID-19 Taskforce, comprising some amazing colleagues from NNEdPro and BMJ Nutrition, I have certainly had to challenge previously held knowledge in the quest for new insights into tackling the pandemic from a food and nutrition perspective. Over 15 weeks there has been an average of an output each week marshalled by this Taskforce to add to national and global efforts including providing advice to guideline agencies. However, what this has taught us is that knowledge can never stand still on its laurels and with the greatest humility we need open mindedness, being ready to potentially discard the truths of yesteryears to embrace novel ways forward in the pursuit of science to serve society!
Alongside accruing new knowledge we have also learned new ways of coping with a global crisis and how despite being apart we can be more connected than ever before. This month our colleagues from across the Mediterranean, as well as those under down, will provide a view on how Australia and New Zealand have been combatting COVID-19 from locking down on social contact to unlocking online learning! At NNEdPro we are also delighted with the success to date of our online learning as we enter the third month of conducting linked webinars and online journal clubs for the members of the International Academy of Nutrition Educators as well as external subscribers. This has geared us up to deliver over 60 hours of world class educational content in the form of our Online Summer School and Virtual International Summit this September – I hope to e-meet many of you there – and in the meantime please do spread the word!
Another piece of learning in recent weeks has been the insights arising from the Black Lives Matter movement and its corollaries the world over. On one hand, as an organisation we strongly support the abolition of oppression in all its forms. However, on the other hand as an individual, it has made me even more cognisant of the walls of structural discrimination that we have almost come to accept as ‘normal’ due to its pervasive nature and wide prevalence. However, just as the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 is a phenomenon that we are joining forces to tackle, the momentum from the BLM movement provides us with a similar opportunity to learn, evolve and stand united against the hidden pandemic of inequalities.
With this learning, I feel both privileged and humbled as I look back on the past 20 years of my own career and when I first began the journey of attempting to unite the worlds of Nutrition, Public Health and Medicine. Whilst the destination is still a work in progress, the path has been the greatest teacher. Together with colleagues and friends, I have had the opportunity to navigate barriers on rocky and uneven terrain at times against the headwinds of scientific or social ignorance. But this has never dampened our velocity or tenacity as NNEdPro has been spurred on at every stage by the much stronger tailwinds that come from the energy, enthusiasm and collective brilliance of the members at our very core. Aside from the technical aspects of the work we do I realise we also have a responsibility to share our learning around the experience of how best to tackle inequity and turn challenges into opportunities. And in doing so we can hope to be true to our strapline of advancing and implementing nutrition (as well as generic) knowledge to improve health, wellbeing and society!
Professor Sumantra Ray RNutr
Founding Chair and Executive Director