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How nutritionists are helping solve the world's biggest problems

Photo: How nutritionists are helping solve the world's biggest problems
Malnutrition affects 1 in 3 people around the world, with nearly half of all countries facing serious social and public health burdens as a result, a recent report has found. The Global Nutrition Report 2015, released in September, highlights how nutrition is now considered a widespread and complex issue affecting all countries and social groups. 

The report also demonstrates how nutrition is increasingly being used as a signal for greater social and health issues, such as poverty, inequality and education.

Researchers and policymakers are recognising how malnourishment represents a barrier to global development and how better nutrition among populations leads to improved prosperity and quality of life.

According to the report, "When people’s nutrition status improves, it helps break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, generates broad-based economic growth, and leads to a host of benefits for individuals, families, communities, and countries."
Children most at risk
The group worst affected is young children, with malnutrition linked to around half of all child mortality throughout the world.

Unsurprisingly, a child's health and nutrition outcomes vary massively depending on where they are born, however, when they are born is also shown to play a significant role. In developing countries the season of a child's birth can have a massive effect on their health, with children born in India during the summer and monsoon months more likely to be affected by malnutrition-related health issues.

More than 652 million children under five suffer malnutrition and of those more than 42 million are overweight or obese.

Breaking down obesity myths
Malnutrition has proven to be porous across cultural boundaries, and there is no greater example of this than obesity, one of the greatest global health challenges today. More than 2.1 billion people around the world are overweight or obese, representing 30 per cent of the global population.

The report smashes a number of myths regarding obesity, including the misconception that Western countries – such as the United States and Australia – are primarily affected by obesity. In fact it is developing Pacific Island nations which have the highest rates of obesity in the world, with three in four people in American Samoa reported to be obese.

This is not to discount obesity as an issue in developed nations. Between 5 and 20 per cent of healthcare expenditure in the United States and Europe goes towards the treatment of obesity, and the prosperous Arab Gulf nations have rates double the global average.

Global opportunities in nutrition
This might seem like an insurmountable problem, but experts remain optimistic. While malnutrition remains a massive challenge, most agree it can be overcome.

According to the report, nutrition is a wise investment for government, with every dollar spent on nutrition having a potential sixteen-fold return in investment. This sentiment is also echoed by the private sector. In June of last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it was investing $776 million in nutrition to help address women's health and infant mortality rates.

This represents huge global employment opportunities for those seeking a career in nutrition. With an estimated deficit of 13 million professional health workers in the coming decades, nutrition and prevention are set to become a part of the focus of public health campaigns across the globe.

"Nutritionists offer an extremely valuable service," says Louise Zylan, Head of Academic Studies at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies (ACNT). "Nutrition is integral to public health and almost all major global issues today. At ACNT, we are training the next generation of nutritional health professionals who will create a healthier world for the future."

Study nutrition
ACNT offers degrees and vocational courses in nutrition. This includes the Bachelor of Nutrition and Bachelor of Applied Public Health (Nutrition), in which students learn about public health, nutrition campaigns and the role of public policy in improving health.

With employment opportunities in Australia and abroad, nutrition is a great industry for anyone wanting to make a change. Click here to find out more about ACNT and how you can start your career in nutrition.

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