The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition takes great pleasure in announcing the launch of a new clinical nutrition dietetics program in Malawi. This program was supported in its conceptualization, preparation and management by Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in collaboration with Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi, and now accredited by the Medical Council of Malawi. The first dietetic students will be admitted in early April 2016.
This activity has involved a close collaboration with Alex Kalimbira, the Nutrition Lab’s partner at LUANAR, who was enthused by the news: “For LUANAR, the approval is transformative in the university’s way of conducting its business, and in fulfilling its mandate of contributing to improved quality of lives of Malawians. Ultimately, the implementation of the Clinical Dietetics programme will position the university as a relevant national asset.”
Malawi has many professionals doing excellent work in community nutrition. However, to date there has been only a handful of clinical dietitians working in the country-all trained overseas. Arguably, the most effective dietitian for Malawi is a Malawian, trained in Malawi by fellow Malawians. “Now with this accreditation, we’re almost there” said Molly Uebele, Tufts’ Supervising Dietician in Malawi.
Dietetics graduates will join medical teams in healthcare facilities across the country to play a strong role in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition. Rates of undernutrition are very high in Malawi, contributing to unacceptable levels of child mortality. At the same time, overweight and obesity are emerging problems, linked to burgeoning rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Kalimbira stated that, “at national level, this development brings much-needed hope to the Malawian population, for they will soon know that when they or their loved ones become ill, a specially-trained person will be available to provide medical nutrition therapy. It begins to define a deeper future of nutritional care for many generations to come.”
This accreditation means that graduates will be registered and welcomed as a new cadre in the local medical community. “We needed them yesterday” said the Medical Council of Malawi as it gave LUANAR the go-ahead to begin the training.
They will have a tough task as pioneers in the field, so support is critical. The new 2-year training program will consist of 2 semesters of rigorous, graduate-level coursework, and 1,200 hours of practical application in local hospital settings where students will work side-by-side with doctors and nurses. The curriculum to be used compiles both academic knowledge and practical skills, designed to be as rigorous as equivalent programs elsewhere in the world but appropriate to local needs.
The development of this program was generously supported by the United States Agency for International Development, with resources applied both from Washington, D.C. and from the USAID mission in Malawi.