In pursuit of good health
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.