Dear colleagues and friends,
As you are aware, the African Nutrition Society (ANS), is a learned society with the vision – “to create a unified continental nutrition profession of individual members, provide a continental professional scientific forum, promote training, research and capacity building in nutrition and contribute to workforce development to meet Africa’s nutrition and health policy agenda”. Over the years, the ANS has endeavored to promote professionalism, intellectual interactions, and nutrition research across all regions of Africa and beyond. It has provided platforms for both young and old to interact, share, learn, and to promote the field of nutrition. These have mainly been achieved through the ANEC Conferences, Training Workshops, and the use of e-platforms (e.g. the ANS website). The African Nutrition Matters (ANM) has also contributed to these endeavors. Efforts are underway to develop professional practice frameworks leading to professional registration and accreditation, with a longer term aim of harmonizing nutrition training across African Higher Education institutions. The immediate past President will elaborate on these in this issue of the ANM.
You may also be aware that at Seventh African Nutritional Epidemiology Conference in Marrakech, a new President of the ANS was elected. I take the liberty to introduce myself before proceeding with this letter. I have academic training in Nutrition, Public Health, and Bioethics and have served the University of Ghana, Legon with unblemished record for six years as Academic Senior Member. My interdisciplinary work spans Reproductive Health; Maternal and Young Child Nutrition, and Nutrition-related NCDs. I also research into the socio-cultural, socio-ethical, and the medico-ethical dimensions of sexually, and perinatally transmissible infections (esp. HIV). I have participated actively and constructively in meetings that aimed to shape local and global nutrition agenda in the past half decade. I served as the National Secretary of the Ghana Nutrition Association from November 2008 to December 2011; and Ex-Officio Executive Member from 2011 to 2014; I have been involved in the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) activities at the global level since 2010; I am currently a member of the Ghana SUN Core Group; a founding member of the Ghana Civil Society Coalition for SUN (GHACCSUN), as well as the Ghana SUN Academic Platform. I have been an office-holding member of the ANS for the past four years. I was the Head of Professional Service Administration from 2012 to 2016. My involvement in ANS administration has offered me the opportunity to appreciate what ANS represents for members, for our profession and for our partners. I should say, I have come full circle with ANS and now as your President, look forward to working with fellow executives, the esteemed members of the ANS Trustees, and all of ANS partners to make sure that ANS remains a valuable organization for us, our professional practice, our Africa.
I promise to continue the excellent work done by my predecessor, Professor Francis Zotor. The immediate past President, and those before him have cleared clean our racing track, and we can only sprint. Energized by their successes, I look ahead with great confidence and optimism to the Society’s continued development. For the remainder of this letter I would like to present strategic actions the ANS plans to implement for the next couple of years. These actions will engender ANS’ growth; and will catalyze the Society’s collective dream of being at the forefront of advancing the scientific study of nutrition; promoting appropriate strategies for the improvement of nutritional well-being of the African population. Listed below are some of the proposed strategic actions.
As a Society, we will:
- Strengthen our partnerships with other learned Societies and Federations across all regions of the world;
- Cement our partnerships with international organizations, including UN agencies, and other organizations desirous of building intellectual capacity and promotion of the field of nutrition in Africa;
- Ethically engage with industry/private sector as we work towards realizing local, regional and global nutrition goals;
- Incentivize membership recruitment in all regions of African and the Diaspora;
- Sustain the actions of current Nutrition Capacity Development initiatives in African;
- Stimulate the engagement of members and public through innovative and optimal use of ANS’ e-platforms and tools;
- Appreciate our predecessors and current mentors by recognizing and showcasing significant contributions made by them;
- Initiate inter-ANEC Lectures at the country level for country level engagement in between our
- Vigorously pursue the establishment of the Journal of the African Nutrition Society to provide an opportunity to members to publicize their research findings as well as the proceedings of our scientific meetings and conferences;
- Motivate and support meaningful collaboration with the African nutrition research community
Although details of these initiatives will be publicized in due course via appropriate communication and media portals of the ANS, I take the opportunity offered me now to comment on a couple of them.
Appreciating our predecessors and current mentors
As a society, we need to identify and harness effective mechanisms to articulate the significant contributions made by our past Presidents, our Trustees, and members. As a member-based organization, ANS is nothing without the determination and foresight of its founders, the commitment and drive of those who follow in their footsteps. Without the dedication of all those who have served ANS we would not have developed into a leading Nutrition Society in Africa, and neither would we be so well positioned for the challenges that lie ahead. Therefore, we propose to recognize our distinguished past Presidents, and Trustees by showcasing their significant contributions both in our print media and e-platforms.
Optimal use of ANS’ e-platforms
In this today’s world, e-platforms offer enormous potential to share, to receive, to interact, and to learn. When exploited to its full potential, the ANS’ web site (www.ansnet.org) will serve as a warehouse for presenting nutrition knowledge to members and the public. Cognizant of this, plans are underway to revamp the site – improving its information storage and sharing capacity for members as well as the general public. To leverage technology, our web presence will be augmented by social media activity. We propose to create Social Media Handles, and identify social media liaisons (to be led by the ANS Regional Reps, the AGSNET, and the ANM media editor) to ensure sustained social media activity.
Membership recruitment in all regions of African and the Diaspora:
We plan to motivate and incentivize members, particularly Regional Representatives. Existing ANS Regional Representative in the East, West North, South and Central Africa, and a sixth yet to be created to manage recruitment and promotion of the Society in the Diaspora will spearhead this activity. Beginning in Addis 2018, the most vigorous recruiter will be honored with a valuable award. We also plan to develop clear benefits package for membership including but not limited to significantly reduced ANEC conferences registration fees for members in good standing; and receipt of branded ANS insignia and memorabilia.
ANS Lectures as an Inter-ANEC activity:
This will be country-led; we will support member countries to have the distinguished members of the ANS give a Lecture in between the ANEC conferences. The Executive of the ANS, the Regional Reps will support countries in publicizing this ahead of time, through the traditional and innovative media portals described above.
Meaningful collaboration/engagement with the African nutrition research community:
As the popular African Proverbs goes “If You Want To Go Fast – Go Alone, If You Want To Go Far – Go Together”. It would seem to me that nutrition research in Africa is currently moving fast but not going as far as it should. The antidote to getting our nutrition realize its God-given potential, may well lie in the wisdom of this Proverb. We should strive not only to identify relevant stakeholders, and be abreast of emerging nutrition research themes, but to commit to work together. Although there are challenges relating to resources and diversity, if we are to improve nutrition research in Africa, we have not option than to learn to work together on a local, continental, and international level.
As a learned society made of, and representing nutrition researchers, the ANS in line with both our Marrakech Declaration; the spirit of the Sustainable Developing Goals; and Agenda 2063, implores African nutrition researchers to embrace meaningful collaboration. If need be, the ANS is ever ready to act as a facilitator, and glue between nutrition researchers in the continent. However, wherever we work, whatever we do, the ANS will continue to ensure their entire members feel their worth, and the worth of working together. We promised, on this the 13th Day of October 2016 – in Marrakech, to promote and work together across sectors to operationalize the Decade for Action on Nutrition; to achieve the Sustainable Developing Goals and the Agenda 2063. We will not renege on our promise.
I conclude my letter with thanks to all of our partners for their continued support, our dedicated members, and volunteers, particularly the Editorial Team of the ANM. The ANM, which continues to be the official newsletter of the ANS, remains in circulation, thanks to the sacrifice, commitment, dedication, and leadership of its Editorial Team. I note with pride, that ANS membership not only provides a discount on the registration for its Biennial Conferences, but also an opportunity to develop professional interests, professional practice, and above all the attributes of selflessness. If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact us for additional information. We would be honored to welcome you to the largest known extended family in Africa.
Amos Laar, BSc, MPH, MA, Ph.D
President, African Nutrition Society