The leadership programme for nutritionists has been initiated in Europe by a group of renowned nutrition scientists in 1994. Since then, the ENLP (European Nutrition Leadership Programme) has been held annually (except in 1999) in Luxembourg as part of their human resource development effort. In 2000 to 2002, the training gave opportunities for participants from SEAMEO – TROPMED, Jakarta, Indonesia (3) and from South Africa (2) aiming to build the leadership capacity for nutritionists outside Europe.
In the interest to replicate this endeavour, the SEAMEO – TROPMED Regional Centre for Community Nutrition, Jakarta and other nutrition leaders from the Philippines and Malaysia convened and planned for the feasibility of conducting such training.
Strong leadership skills in nutrition are needed for South East Asia in the future because:
- Countries in the region still face numerous and high burden of nutritional problems with limited resources.
- Health policies, including those involving nutrition, should be defined not only at the national but also at regional level.
- Globalization and free trade era result in a more complex and diverse food system in the region.
- Mounting evidence shows that diet has a greater role in health and disease than previously thought.
- The role of nutrition in health and diseases is receiving attention from many parties, not only those involved in health but also those involved in agriculture, food industries and public policy.
- Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with nutrition and demand more information on balanced and healthy diet.
The South East Asian Nutrition Leadership Programme (SEA-NLP) was organized within the SEAMEO-NUTRINET (Nutrition Network) framework. SEAMEO-NUTRINET is South-South cooperation and network efforts in community nutrition with the objective to intensify and enhance collaboration and establish networks among potential institutions within and outside of the South East Asian regions in the fields of nutrition education, nutrition research and social marketing.
Prior to the execution of the SEA-NLP, a survey to identify the leadership situation in South East Asian countries was conducted in June 2002 using on-line survey facilities. The survey found that, in the South East Asia region, more than 40 new MSc and 15 new PhD graduates are expected every year from various backgrounds, such as Ecology, Food Science, Nutrition, Medicine, and Public Health. The need to have more cooperation and collaboration in research among nutritionists was highlighted. For that, training on leadership and communication were considered to be very useful to facilitate the cooperation and collaboration as well as to build the network.
The results of the survey were discussed in the third SEAMEO-NUTRINET meeting in August 2002. The participants of the workshop agreed that the SEA-NLP should aim at the capacity building of the individuals and institutions, particularly individuals working in academia and government institutions. The workshop had agreed on the following points: list of benefits for individuals and for institutions after attending the programme, refined objectives of the program, criteria for eligible participants, elements for the leadership topics, list of nutrition update topics with potential speakers, methods of training, and duration of training. The need for measuring the impact of the program both for individuals and institutions was highlighted. However, the evaluation procedure has not been designed.
With these information on hand, the SEAMEO – TROPMED Regional Centre for Community Nutrition, Jakarta conducted the first SEA-NLP in 14-19 October 2002. The funding of the first SEA-NLP was mainly from the government of Indonesia through SEAMEO TROPMED RCCN. Other financial contributors were UNICEF Indonesia, ILSI South East Asia and Nestle Indonesia.
SEANLP – Southeast Asian Nutrition Leadership Program
As a region, Southeast Asia is reportedly a fast growing economy in Asia in recent decades. Likewise, its population health indicators and nutritional status showed relatively much improvement over the years. Nonetheless, in terms of progress, overnutrition is on the rise in every country, in conjunction with too slow decreasing rate of undernutrition problems in the region. The vast gaps in economic and technological development across the SEA countries showed that, in reality, immense inequalities in health burden persist in the region. The complexity of the nutrition problems in the region is certainly calling for new critical mass of leaders in the field of nutrition who have vision, integrity, confidence and capacity to ignite an action for change, well-informed with the current situation and can stimulate partnership with other leaders to achieve the goals of nutrition improvement in the region.
The SEANLP (South East Asian Nutrition Leadership Program) is a platform designed for empowering nutritionists and other related professionals to gain competencies in effective leadership skills, communication, and decision making process. It aims to prepare participants to be the catalysts for enhancing nutrition development and provide a forum of networking in the region where information and ideas are exchanged and collaborative projects can be established.
The SEANLP is conducted under the auspices of the ENLP (European Nutrition Leadership Program) and is part of the Global Nutrition Leadership Platform together with European (ENLP) and African (ANLP). It was initiated and organized by the SEAMEO RECFON (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization, Regional Centre for Food and Nutrition) since 2002. The program have successfully carried out 11 SEANLPs and brought up a total of 254 alumni coming from various different countries in the SEA region and beyond, also varied institutions.