My work from home setup: complete with a makeshift standing desk, breakfast, and UNC memorabilia.

My work from home setup: complete with a makeshift standing desk, breakfast, and UNC memorabilia.

As I inch towards the end of my master’s program and the real-world beckons, it’s been challenging to articulate my immediate and long-term career ambition to friends and family. I am still working on my elevator pitch, and I can’t fault those for whom the words “development,” “social determinants of health,” and “malnutrition interventions” makes them nod in vague understanding. To begin with, the world of healthcare is esoteric, and until around March 2020, few laypersons had given any thought to what public health as a discipline was all about. When I am doing a good job of describing my career interests, I say something to the effect of, I want to focus on the challenges associated with reducing global health disparities and addressing upstream determinants of poor health outcomes. To the greatest extent possible, I believe healthcare systems should promote health, rather than treat disease. That is why I’m passionate about nutrition and the potential it has to spur improvements in the quality of life for individuals, families, communities, and nations. As evidence, take the World Bank’s estimate on economic loss due to undernutrition. The cost of undernutrition (defined as stunting, wasting, underweight, and micronutrient deficiencies) is projected to be 2-3% of gross domestic product (GDP) on average and as high as 11% of GDP in some African and Asian countries each year. Likewise, the costs of overnutrition, commonly manifest as overweight and obesity, are linked to expensive health expenditures associated with chronic non-communicable diseases such as type II diabetes and hypertension. Investment in nutrition is too important for governments and nations to ignore.

Given my passion for global nutrition and global health, this spring and summer I am partnering with the World Bank as a Short-Term Nutrition Consultant. The experience will serve as my Advanced Nutrition Experience for the MPH with registered dietitian training program. I will contribute to the report Positioning Nutrition within Universal Health Coverage: Optimizing Health Financing Levers. The project seeks to provide practical knowledge for policymakers about how health financing can be used to improve nutrition service coverage and quality.  I am responsible for conducting desk reviews for several low and middle-income countries (LMICs). The project’s final deliverables include a policy note and country case studies that will be presented at the 2021 Nutrition for Growth summit in Tokyo.

I’m excited by the opportunity to work with such an established and well-connected organization. During this experience, I look forward to working with highly intelligent, highly motivated people who are trying to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues around hunger, malnutrition, and overnutrition. I hope to walk away with a bird’s eye view of the nutrition situation in LMICs, and a deeper understanding of the day-to-day tasks of a nutrition specialist. Finally, I’m grateful to be working with a team of experts on the project! So much of the past year and a half has been spent in academic isolation. During my experience I will still work remotely, but I’ll get the opportunity to participate in weekly conference calls and collaborate on document drafts with the team. Hopefully by the end of the summer I will have my future plans elevator pitch perfected!

Until next time,

Ashley