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Nutrition researcher awarded international prize

Clocktower from the Leith

Thursday 11 April 2013 12:25pm

Rosalind Gibson in Ethiopia
Professor Rosalind Gibson delivers a nutritional assessment course in Ethiopia.

A leading University of Otago nutritionist, Professor Rosalind Gibson, has been awarded the 2013 Kellogg International Prize in Nutrition. The award is given by American Society of Nutrition (ASN) to a member of its Global Nutrition Council ‘actively engaged in research to benefit populations in non-industrialised countries, as demonstrated through publications in the scientific literature, and actively engaged in training new scientists for international nutrition research’.

Professor Gibson, a research professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, has been recognised for her work on three fronts: her research on micronutrient malnutrition, her teaching in countries in both Africa and SE Asia of advanced level short courses in nutritional assessment, and her authoritative book – Principles of Nutritional Assessment – a widely used reference text that has now been continuously in print for more than twenty years.

“I am particularly pleased to receive this international recognition for my translational research and my contribution to capacity strengthening in nutritional assessment in low-income countries,” she says.

“I have also appreciated the interest and support of all my colleagues during my research career, and the enthusiasm and dedication of my postgraduate students, in both Canada and New Zealand, who have often worked in difficult conditions.”

Professor Gibson’s interest in Africa was initiated by three years in Addis Ababa at the Ethio-Swedish Children’s Nutrition Unit following completion of an MS in Public Health Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her PhD from the University of London was for research on zinc in premature infants − a study that initiated a life-long interest in micronutrient nutrition.

In 1979, Professor Gibson moved to the University of Guelph, Ontario where her research focussed on micronutrient nutrition, particularly on zinc in populations at risk of deficiency. Subsequently she expanded this research to low-income countries, initially Guatemala, Papua New Guinea and Malawi, the work focussing on zinc and iron.

Professor Gibson’s experience in zinc malnutrition led to her becoming a founding member of the International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group in 2000, a small interest group that continues to press WHO and other international bodies on the importance of zinc nutrition in low-income countries. Zinc deficiency in children in developing countries plays a major role in stunting as well as decreased immunity, leading to increased risks of infections due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, and mortality.

Her more recent research has emphasized sustainable food-based strategies to combat micronutrient deficiencies. This research in low-income countries has included studies with her students in Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Brazil. This work has continued since moving to the University of Otago where she co-directs the regional WHO collaborating Centres for Nutrition.

To help with the desperate shortage of experienced nutrition professionals in many low-income countries, Professor Gibson began giving intensive short courses on nutritional assessment lasting one to three weeks to small groups of senior students and health professionals. These courses, initially in Ethiopia, have also been given in South Africa, Thailand and Indonesia and this work continues at the present time. These courses often complement a locally-based MSc programme and are often tailored to address significant local nutritional problems.

For more information, contact

Professor Rosalind Gibson
Department of Human Nutrition
Email rosalind.gibson@otago.ac.nz

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