In pur­suit of good health

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - HIGHER EDUCATION -

IN the early 1970s, the Health Min­istry cre­ated a new po­si­tion within the min­istry for a Nu­tri­tion Of­fi­cer.

Only three po­si­tions were avail­able, and a young Mir­nalini Kan­diah earned one of the cov­eted po­si­tions.

She was as­signed to Kedah in 1977.

“We were the pi­o­neer­ing batch and (then prime min­is­ter) Tun Hus­sein Onn’s daugh­ter was one of us three,” rem­i­nisces Prof Mir­nalini, cur­rently a pro­fes­sor at UCSI Univer­sity’s (UCSI) Fac­ulty of Ap­plied Sciences.

Over the last decade, the coun­try has seen much growth in the field of nu­tri­tion.

To­day, the Nu­tri­tion Di­vi­sion’s role has ex­panded to in­clude draft­ing nu­tri­tion poli­cies for the en­tire coun­try.

As Prof Mir­nalini has been a part of Malaysia’s nu­tri­tion field from the on­set, from a pi­o­neer­ing Nu­tri­tion Of­fi­cer to be­ing a nu­tri­tion re­searcher with the Health Min­istry, UCSI per­suaded her to be part of its Food Sci­ence and Nu­tri­tion Depart­ment.

Com­par­ing the role of nutri­tion­ists in the 1970s with those of to­day, Prof Mir­nalini pointed out that nutri­tion­ists will al­ways be in de­mand be­cause of one sim­ple rea­son – the coun­try and the world at large need healthy cit­i­zens.

“It is not about hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion. It’s about cre­at­ing peo­ple who are well so they can be more pro­duc­tive and re­duce the health care costs of the coun­try,” she ex­plains.

The im­por­tance of main­tain­ing a healthy life­style is ac­knowl­edged by the United Na­tions World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO), which de­fined health as “a state of com­plete phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial well-be­ing and not merely the ab­sence of disease or in­fir­mity”.

It is with this holis­tic ap­proach that the Univer­sity’s Fac­ulty of Ap­plied Sciences de­signed its BSc (Hons) Nu­tri­tion with Well­ness pro­gramme.

The pro­gramme is also recog­nised by the Nu­tri­tion So­ci­ety of Malaysia – the pro­fes­sional body for nutri­tion­ists in the coun­try.

This al­lows grad­u­ates with this de­gree to be ac­knowl­edged as pro­fes­sion­als qual­i­fied to ad­vise pa­tients on nu­tri­tion.

The rig­or­ous ground­work done by the fac­ulty in en­sur­ing the pro­gramme is duly recog­nised by the nec­es­sary bod­ies paves the way for BSc (Hons) Nu­tri­tion with Well­ness stu­dents to en­ter the field of nu­tri­tion and well­ness has­sle-free.

But does the nu­tri­tion field have a fu­ture bright enough to war­rant four years of study?

To an­swer that, one only needs to look around at the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion’s poor di­etary habits, stress-filled life­styles and in­creas­ingly pol­luted en­vi­ron­ment.

All th­ese con­trib­ute to a rise in chronic dis­eases that are longterm or re­cur­ring.

The health­care in­dus­try is al­ready feel­ing the bur­den, with Prof Mir­nalini re­veal­ing that di­eti­tians have their hands full deal­ing with pa­tients with chronic dis­eases.

There is an in­creased fo­cus on preven­tion – good nu­tri­tion and healthy life­styles – which only a pro­fes­sional nu­tri­tion­ist will be able to ad­vise.

To main­tain the high­est level of aca­demic and sci­en­tific stan­dards for the BSc (Hons) Nu­tri­tion with Well­ness pro­gramme, the fac­ulty em­pha­sises ev­i­dence­based learn­ing.

Grad­u­ates of the pro­gramme will be able to ad­vise pa­tients with in­for­ma­tion based on sci­en­tif­i­cally proven ev­i­dence.

The pro­gramme in­cludes two months of co-op­er­a­tive place­ment for ev­ery year of study. This sees stu­dents pur­su­ing their in­tern­ship with pres­ti­gious names in the in­dus­try.

To en­sure stu­dents im­prove their com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, the fi­nal year of the pro­gramme sees stu­dents em­bark­ing on a com­mu­nity project.

This in­volves the stu­dents leav­ing their univer­sity com­fort zone and work­ing with a com­mu­nity – be it a school or a res­i­den­tial area – and ad­vis­ing them on nu­tri­tion and well­ness.

Sum­ming up, Prof Mir­nalini said the ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties were there in the field of nu­tri­tion and well­ness.

Stu­dents sim­ply need to en­sure that they meet the stan­dards set by the Health Min­istry as well as the Nu­tri­tion So­ci­ety of Malaysia.

With more than 10,000 stu­dents from 80 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, UCSI stands out as a melt­ing pot of diver­sity where learn­ers can sup­ple­ment their pur­suit of knowl­edge with a keen sense of cul­tural ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

For more in­for­ma­tion, call 03-9101 8882 or e-mail www.uc­si­u­ni­ver­sity.edu.my/ on­li­neen­quiry. Al­ter­na­tively, drop by UCSI’s Info Day on Dec 28 and 29 from 9am to 5pm.

Prof Dr Mir­nalini Kan­diah of UCSI Univer­sity says a nu­tri­tion­ist’s role dif­fers from that of a di­eti­tian.

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