KARACHI: Deploring that nutrition is not being recognised as a health and well-being related speciality in the country, Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society (PNDS) Thursday urged the government to introduce degree courses in nutrition and dietetics at colleges and universities, create positions of nutritionists at public health facilities and provide employment to trained and qualified nutritionists and dietitians to improve the nutritional status of the nation.
The society of nutritionists and dietitians also demanded the federal government to establish Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Council (PNDC) on the pattern of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, Pharmacy, nursing council and many other regulatory bodies so that only genuine and qualified persons could be able to practice and advise people on the matters related to nutrition in health and disease, saying in the absence of their council, unrelated and non-qualified people were misguiding the entire nation.
The PNDS office-bearers made these demands while addressing a news conference at Karachi Press Club (KPC) in connection with March Nutrition Month, which is observed globally to raise awareness about importance of nutrition and diet in overall well-being of people and prevention of diseases.
An awareness walk was also held outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC), which was attended by the PNDS office-bearers as well as students from different educational institutions who were holding placards inscribed with slogans and messages about having balanced diet, healthy life-style and importance of exercise to remain healthy and avoid most of the preventable diseases.
“In a country where 38 percent children are stunted, which means that their growth and development is impaired due to poor and insufficient diet, nutrition as a speciality is not being recognised in Pakistan, which is highly deplorable. Nutrition status in Sindh is worst in Pakistan but unfortunately, no efforts are being made to promote this speciality and produce trained and qualified nutritionists and dietitians”, said Doctor Nilofer Safdar, former President of PNDS and an associate professor at Dow University of Health Sciences.
Accompanied by President PNDS Rabia Anwar, Vice President Saima Rasheed, former president and PR Coordinator Fayza Khan, Saima Rasheed, Shabnam Razi and others, Doctor Nilofer said although federal and provincial governments had started nutrition programs since 2013 but deplored that the people hired by the authorities were either foreigners or locals who were not qualified nutritionists and dietitians but doctors ,food technologists or belong to other related disciplines who could not run these programs as per local needs.
Calling for introducing bachelors, master’s degree courses and producing Ph.Ds in the field of nutrition and dietetics, Doctor Nilofer called for capacity building of the faculty as colleges and varsities and urged the Higher Education Commission to pay heed in promotion of nutrition as a subject at institutes of higher learning.
President PNDS Rabia Anwar said the theme of March Nutrition month this year was ‘food for health’, saying they were trying simultaneously to create awareness among masses as well as highlight issues of nutritionists, who were not being recognised while illiterate and unspecialised persons were being promoted as nutritionists and dietitians in the country.
Calling for establishment of a Nutrition Council through a presidential order or act of parliament, she also urged the government to form Senate and Provincial Assembly Committees to improve nutritional status and control obesity and malnutrition, which had become serious national issues.
Eminent nutritionist and former PNDS President Fayza Khan deplored that nutritionists were not being employed at most of the public hospitals in the province including JPMC, Civil Hospital Karachi, National Institute of Child Health (NICH) and called for employing trained and qualified nutritionist at hospitals so that they could advise people on prevention of diseases through dietary interventions.
“Untrained and unqualified people are advising on diet and nutrition everywhere in the country including doctors who are not trained to tell what to eat and what not to eat. Similarly, unrelated and unqualified people advise on diet and nutrition on media, which should be halted immediately”, she said and urged media to spread awareness about healthy and balanced diet in consultation with trained and qualified dietitians and nutritionists only.
Other PNDS members including Saima Rasheed, Shabnam Razi and Mozamilla Mughal also spoke on the occasion. Later, PNDS office-bearers and students held a walk for awareness about diet and nutrition.