We sat down and had a chat with the new ADSA President, Christine Taljaard-Krugell, who has taken over from Nicole Lubasinski, following her relocation to the UK.
Christine brings along a wealth of experience as the general manager of the African Nutrition Leadership Programme. “With ADSA turning 30 this year, I am truly humbled for the opportunity to contribute in my new role as ADSA president.”
Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?
My sister had DM type 1 from a young age. The way that her disease impacted not only her own life but also our family’s as a whole made me realize just how big the potential impact of optimal nutrition can be. I have the utmost respect and deepest empathy for any family who is faced with chronic illness. It was only later in life, in my fourth year that I was exposed to what I now enjoy the most, public health nutrition related research.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?
Being a researcher I love the diversity that my work brings. Research is challenging in the sense that you have to invest for a very long period of time before you get the reward. It is when one’s research is usable, when it reaches the target audience that I think the satisfying moments emerge. I am also very privileged to have been involved in the African Nutrition Leadership Programme for the past 6 years. Investing in individuals in the field of nutrition, and to experience the change within such a person, must be some of the most satisfying things one can do.
What has been your career highlight?
In 2016 I was chosen by the International Agency for Research in Cancer to partake in their “50 for 50” initiative to be held in Lyon, France. The initiative entailed that 50 young leaders from around the world were selected to participate in their initiative called “Empowering future cancer research leaders”. It was an absolute wonderful opportunity where I have met great mentors and made new colleagues and friends.
What are the major nutrition-related health issues that South Africa is faced with?
South Africa remains to be utterly complex. South African households are faced with significant challenges that include high levels of poverty, unequal distribution of income and wealth and inequality in health outcomes. In addition to the above malnutrition, including both under and over nutrition prevail. While one fifth of households do not have enough money to buy food for the household till the end of the month, two thirds of women are either overweight or obese. Dietitians needs to provide a health service to the population that is evidence informed as well as attainable.
What are the positive side to the relative dark picture painted above?
Malnutrition is preventable. In the words of Lawrence Haddad, the executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN):
“Despite the challenges, malnutrition is not inevitable, where leaders in government, civil society, academia and business are committed… anything is possible.”
How do you see a nutrition champion?
The nutrition champions in my life are men and women who have an inextinguishable passion for their work. They invest unlimited time, resources and knowledge into young (nutrition/dietetic) professionals. They have the highest work ethic that they choose to stand by.
How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?
I think a good routine (even if a bit boring) helps in preventing a day of total nutrition disaster. However, if that day happens, I hope it was in good company, under the blue sky and enjoyed with friends and family.
What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?
I have to stick to my Dad’s braaivleis and for my favourite treat food it has to be Clover Vanilla Milk.
More about Christine
Christine Taljaard-Krugell is a registered dietitian and currently a part-time researcher and lecturere at the Centre of Excellence for Nutrition at the North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus. She holds a PhD in Nutrition and a MSc in Dietetics with her research area being Public Health Nutrition. She is the general manager of the African Nutrition Leadership Programme (www.africanutritionleadership.org) and the Editor and founding member of The Leader – the official newsletter of the African Nutrition Leadership Programme which is published quarterly.
Her research career started with clinical trials investigating the effect of a multi-micronutrient fortified beverage on cognitive growth in primary school children. Since 2014 she has been actively involved in the South African Breast Cancer study. This population based case-control study of breast cancer aims to clarify the role of body size, diet and physical activity in the African female population. In 2016 she was invited as part of the prestigious “50 for 50 initiative” where the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) identified 50 future cancer research leaders from low-and middle income countries to attend a specialised workshop entitled Fostering Leadership in Cancer Research.
Christine has an interest in evidence informed decision making and was the project lead for the South African leg of the EVIDENT (Evidence informed decision making for nutrition and health) project. This multi-country project included other African countries such as Benin, Morocco, Ghana and Ethiopie. The aim of the South African study was to document decision-making processes for public health nutrition programming.