Malawi’s First Dietetics Program: Lessons from a Multi-Pronged Approach to Building Human and Institutional Capacity for Nutrition
In the face of the growing double burden of malnutrition in Africa, Malawi became one of a handful of countries in sub-Saharan Africa to develop and implement its own dietetics program, with support from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition and USAID Malawi. The multi-faceted role that registered dietitians play in improving quality of life through multidisciplinary clinical nutrition care, nutrition programming and policy engagement, in communities and hospitals, is recognized globally. Yet, more than 60% of African countries do not have dietetics training programs, consequently leading to a severe shortage of dietitians in health service delivery. Please join us to learn more about a pioneering dietetics program that has led to the genesis of the dietetics profession in Malawi; the development, implementation, challenges and future directions. We are very excited to hear from Malawian academic and government stakeholders’ perspectives on the introduction of dietetics training, future of the program and the profession in Malawi.
Elizabeth Marino-Costello - Elizabeth Marino-Costello is a Registered Dietitian and Senior Program Manager, Clinical Instructor, Academic & Career Advisor, Graduate Science Programs. For over 20 years, Elizabeth has been in the field of dietetics as a practicing clinical dietitian and then, clinical nutrition director for ARAMARK Healthcare Division and hospital administrator at Tufts Medical Center. She has been with the Nutrition Innovation Lab since its inception 10 years ago overseeing partner awards, financials, as well as supporting the nutrition capacity building activities of the Lab in all countries. In addition, her role in the Friedman School supports student admissions and advising for both the Dietetics and the Master’s in Nutrition Science and Policy programs.
Sanele Nkomani - Sanele Nkomani is a Registered Dietitian with a master’s in Nutrition from the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), whose career has focused on developing clinical nutrition practice in developing countries. Sanele is currently the Supervising Dietitian for Malawi’s first Dietetics training program, based at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and supported by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition through USAID funding. Sanele is responsible for teaching graduate classes in medical nutrition therapy, nutrition counselling and behaviour change, and mentoring students through clinical internships. In addition, she provides technical support to the government of Malawi on recruitment and deployment of dietitians and clinical nutrition guidelines and protocols development. Sanele has taken lead roles in the development of credentialing requirements, standards of practice and education for registered dietitians in Zimbabwe and Malawi. She has over eight years of experience working in various clinical settings including public and private health care in Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Dr. Lynne M. Ausman - Dr. Lynne M. Ausman D.Sc., R.D. is the Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Professor in International Nutrition at the Friedman School, Tufts University, a Fellow in the American Society of Nutrition, and is a Registered Dietitian. She is trained as a nutritional biochemist with teaching and research interests in chronic disease and nutrition including issues of lipoprotein response to several vegetable oils, including trans fats, soy protein as a possible hypolipidemic dietary component, the advisability of ingesting genetically modified oils, the effect of black tea consumption on isolated human colonocytes, glycemic response as modified by various meal components, and molecular properties of carotenoids that influence cancer and cardiovascular disease including metabolic syndrome and fatty liver. Lynne has been working with the Nutrition Innovation Lab on projects in Malawi, Uganda, and Nepal.
Dr. Bernadette Chimera-Khombe - Dr. Bernadette Chimera-Khombe is the Clinical Coordinator for the Feed the Future innovation for Nutrition and USAID supported, collaborative postgraduate Clinical Dietetics program at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and College of Medicine, Malawi. Dr. Chimera-Khombe is a medical doctor and a public health and epidemiology professional. She holds a degree in medicine, and has acquired postgraduate epidemiology training, with 5 years of clinical experience in public service health care in Malawi. Dr. Chimera-Khombe has played a pivotal role in formulating course content and establishing local clinical training structures for the clinical dietetics programme in Malawi.
Dr. Tinna Manani - Dr. Tinna Manani is the Dean for Faculty of Food and Human Sciences at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). Dr. Manani has a background in microbiology and food science with over a decade of experience working as a lecturer and researcher in food safety, food nutrient profiling and food product development. As an Academic Dean, she provides overall academic and administrative leadership of the Faculty by ensuring effective implementation of all programs within stipulated policies of the University. She is also responsible for facilitating development, accreditation and implementation of training programmes, as well as initiating curriculum reviews and providing oversight on programme quality.
Dr. Alexander Kalimbira - With a PhD in Applied Human Nutrition from the University of Guelph in Canada, Dr. Alexander Kalimbira is an Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Human Nutrition and Health at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). He is in the frontline of implementing the Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Dietetics programme, with the primary role of facilitating and coordinating programme activities, evaluating programme delivery, and advising the university on programme outcomes.
Dr. John Phuka - Dr. John Phuka is the Dean of School of Public health and Family Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Malawi. In 2020, John Phuka was appointed co-chair of the Presidential Task Force for COVID-19, leading the national response plan implementation in terms of prevention, care and case management. John Phuka is an Associate Professor of Public Health and he serves as a Chair, leading the school in strategic planning, needs assessment and quality assurance especially in vetting of new curricula. He also serves as the lead for the Feed the Future lnnovation Lab for Nutrition activities at the College of Medicine, University of Malawi.
Janet Guta - Janet Guta is a public health nutrition specialist with 16 years’ experience in the field of public health and nutrition working with Government and International organizations and in collaboration with the academia, private sector, UNICEF, and donors such as USAID, DFID, European Union and World Bank. Her role is advising and providing technical support, leading and managing public health nutrition programs in her current role as head of nutrition for the health sector as well as her previous roles including role as a National Coordinator for a USAID flagship IYCN project. She has championed and led programs in infant feeding and management of malnutrition for the Malawi Government for 14 years from policy and guideline development, strategic program development, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and sharing of best practices. She has been actively involved in establishing the Dietetics program in Malawi at policy level and making sure that positions are established in the Ministry of Health for the trained dieticians and facilitating the recruitment of the trained dieticians.