Nutrition alumna Safdar, PhD ’12, hosts nutrition policy workshop, launches nutrition Bachelor’s degree program in Pakistan

May 18, 2015

Dr. Nilofer Fatimi Safdar addresses researchers and public health professionals during the "Nutrition Policy to Practice in Pakistan: Exploring the Challenges & Research Opportunities" workshop conducted in March.

In collaboration with three U.K. nutrition partners, Dr. Nilofer Fatimi Safdar and her two Pakistani colleagues won the British Council and Higher Education Commission Pakistan Funded Research Grant to hold a 4-day workshop on "Nutrition Policy to Practice in Pakistan: Exploring the Challenges & Research Opportunities." The workshop, held March 8-11, 2015 in Islamabad Serena Hotel, Pakistan, provided an opportunity for 35 early career nutrition researchers from the United Kingdom and Pakistan to interact, learn from each other, and explore opportunities for building long-lasting research collaborations.

"The workshop was very successful," says Dr. Safdar, who currently serves as the Program Director of Nutrition in the School of Public Health at the Dow University of Health Sciences in Karachi. "It helped engage nutrition and public health professionals from different parts of Pakistan who are facing the real-life challenges of converting nutrition policy into practice in a country where nutritional science is one of the most neglected disciplines. The workshop also provided an insight into the complex reality of this process and ways to deal with limited resources."

The workshop included keynote lectures, discussions, and opportunities for early stage researchers and public health professionals from the U.K. and Pakistan to present their research findings.

Dr. Safdar delivered the opening day plenary lecture on "Nutrition Policy in Pakistan: Exploring Challenges & Research Needs." In her talk, she extensively highlighted the lack of trained people and expertise in public health nutrition, inadequate research opportunities for those working in nutrition and related sciences, and nutrition policy development issues in Pakistan.

As a result, says Dr. Safdar, “the chairman of the Higher Education Commission in Pakistan personally assured the coordinators that he would support nutrition-related research and practical solutions to reduce malnutrition rates in Pakistan.”

On May 11, 2015, Dr. Safdar and her colleagues celebrated the introduction of the first ever four-year Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Nutrition degree program in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Dr. Safdar notes that the nutrition-related health statistics in the Sindh province are very poor, with a dangerously high rate of malnutrition. The newly-created undergraduate nutrition degree program at Dow University of Health Sciences comes in response to a growing need to build a nutrition workforce as a critical step in the country’s efforts to reduce malnutrition.

"I am very thankful to my teachers in the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences who helped me develop the skills I needed to first start an MSPH-Nutrition program and now our new B.S. in Nutrition program," says Dr. Safdar.

The inaugural class welcomes 26 new students. The Bachelor's degree program follows on the heels of the university's MSPH in Nutrition program, which Dr. Safdar helped launch in 2013.

For more information, and to view photos from the university’s B.S. in Nutrition launch ceremony, visit the School of Public Health at the Dow University of Health Sciences’ Facebook page.