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Health challenges: Prof. Olumakaiye stresses need to modify diet

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CHINYERE IKEANYI

Professor of Public Health Nutrition at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Osun State Nigeria, Motunrayo  Funke Olumakaiye,  has stressed the need to modify the diet of individuals in order to address some health challenges.

Professor Funke Olumakaiye stated this while delivering the University’s Inaugural Lecture Series 359 on “Smart Teens Understand The ‘Magic Bullet’ To Break Malnutrition Cycle: Journey to the World of Adolescent Nutrition.

She said since adolescents have a digital life found in the mobile phones and tabs they take around, that makes them smart teens, adding that ‘adolescent girls are Razor Sharp and have to be circumspect in dietary decisions to live a healthy adult life’.

“Without any fear of contradiction, I have decided to leverage their digital life to empower adolescent girls by developing a Mobile Nutrition App as a tool to improve their Dietary Behaviour. Good Dietary Behaviour is the Magic Bullet for Smart Teens to live a healthy lifestyle”, she stated.

Pointing out that Nutrition is preventive medicine, the Professor stated that the trajectory in the 21st century research world was collaborative, adding that it could be suicidal if someone who did not study nutrition begins to recommend nutrition regimens because such an individual does not want to consult a nutritionist.

“There is what is called personalised nutrition. Nutrition is not a case of what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

“Public Health Nutrition is an area of specialisation, having garnered experience that spans over two decades, is no small feat.”, Prof. Olumakaiye further stated, quoting Werner Heisenberg as saying: “For someone to be an expert in a chosen field, he/she must know some of the worst mistakes that can be made in the subject, and how to avoid them”.

According to her, for the world to be a safer sphere to live in, “we must work collaboratively, leaving the expertise to the experts in each field”, adding that one cannot compare the knowledge acquired in a journey of two decades or more with knowledge received in one year of a short course, bearing in mind that one can only sell a thing one has proficiency in.

“If you desire to succeed, you should know that you cannot rule out the professional help of those who have years of experience in all those fields that fall out of your expertise. Let everybody mind their business and leave nutrition to the nutritionists”, she advised.

Prof. Olumakaiye also said: “Adolescent Nutrition is a window of opportunity that has been identified to flatten the rising curves in maternal and child morbidity and mortality rates. The future generation we talk about starts now. The ‘magic bullet’ a smart teen (adolescent girl) needs to break malnutrition cycle is Positive Dietary Behaviour, which can be acquired through appropriate intervention programmes specifically targeted toward them”.

She used the opportunity to comment on the OAU’s Central Office of Research (COR), which coordinates research administration and management.

She said though the office promoted the research culture and harmonised research activities within and across disciplines and specialisations in OAU, “the current status of OAU research activities and research life cycles need interventions and amelioration”.

“Many of the researchers do not avail themselves of the opportunities and services provided by COR for lack of awareness. The COR needs an embedded capacity to deliver on its mandate. Therefore, there is a need for a concerted effort to entrench capacity in the COR, to coordinate the activities by strengthening and popularising a web-enabled CoP for grantsmanship and research management services for capacity building of researchers”, Prof. Olumakaiye further said.

On the future strategy, Olumakaiye disclosed that apart from her stewardship in the Academia so far,  she is not resting on her oars yet as she has adopted two strategies to continue her pursuit in School Children and Adolescent Health and Nutrition “without neglecting Women of Reproductive Age”.

The strategies are Role modeling, and Information and Communication Technology.

She explained that role modeling is used to inform, educate and train vulnerable groups on the why, how, and when adequate Nutrition is needed to live a healthy and productive adult life.

“In-school adolescent girls are specifically targetted because they are accessible and can become change agents to out-of-school adolescent girls in society.

“Nutrition Clubs will be established in Secondary Schools with the name Smart Adolescent Girls Nutrition Club (SAGiN”, she added.

Under ICT, she stated that: “Several traditional attempts, such as leaflets, classroom lectures, and seminars, have been used to address malnutrition issues. However, they are limited and are not sustainable.

“Hence, there is a need to explore more sustainable techniques that female adolescents popularly embrace. With the advent of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) age, adolescents are fond of mobile applications and frequently use ICT”.

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