Lady Irwin College, Delhi University, India
Department of Population Health Sciences, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada
Lady Irwin College, Delhi University, India
Indian Institute of Public Health-Delhi, Public Health Foundation of India
After completing my Masters in Food and Nutrition from Delhi University, I started my career as a clinical nutritionist. Soon I realized that a rigorous journey awaited that would fully immerse me into this vast field of nutrition. Earning a doctoral degree was just the beginning of that journey. The directions provided by my PhD mentor, who was very emphatic that we are given the tools through our training that could make a difference in the way nutrition is used to impact the people's health and well-being, was instrumental towards what I am and what I think today. After completing my PhD, I was fortunate to work in a clinical trial with the Western Sydney Genetics Program, Australia. I was mentored by a research group which was actively involved in clinical genetics research. It was during my PhD thesis and the clinical trial that I was exposed to the rigours of conducting research study with strict trial protocols, applying the core principles of nutritional epidemiology in collecting high quality data, analysis of dietary intake data using country specific databases and finally nutrition data analysis. Following this, apart from teaching public health nutrition at Delhi University, I also had a short stint at Planning Commission of India. I had the opportunity to actively work with the policy makers and realized the importance of evidence based research to inform policy decisions. This was the time when I was offered a faculty position at the host institute which provided me with a unique platform where I could devote my time in both academics and research. I got the opportunity to work with my present mentors who oriented me to the field of public health. In essence, by this time I had synthesized my previous experience and methodological expertise and was ready to actively embark upon a career in public health research. Laboratory based research merged with community based studies seemed most appropriate and exciting way to test and apply all that I had learnt as a nutritionist. It also helped me to integrate the multifarious components that are required for a public health intervention to be successful, e.g. thorough foundational knowledge, contextual relevance and community engagement in particular. During the initial 4 years at the institute, I could successfully complete and was involved in more than 6 projects in areas of maternal and child nutrition, food systems, food policy and health systems research, before venturing into the niche area of indigenous foods research. I was successful in getting a small grant from Wellcome trust program to do an exploratory study on indigenous foods of two tribal communities of Jharkhand. I along with my team could elucidate some preliminary findings on the potential role of indigenous foods in addressing hidden hunger in the study communities. While working in this area for two years I could see the immense scope of exploring the often neglected, still abundantly available biodiversity which could address the crucial nutritional needs of vulnerable communities.
My present research for this fellowship which is a step ahead of the initial work on indigenous foods, aims to explore the indigenous food environment of vulnerable tribal communities in India, inform policy and advocacy environment of this potentially sustainable solution towards addressing issues around food security and nutritional status of the vulnerable communities. This fellowship will help me gain expertise in this niche area of indigenous food systems and promote their utilization to address malnutrition. My real passion lies in reviving this treasure of indigenous knowledge, documenting the exhaustive natural food resources of our country, their nutrient contents and exploring the ways of their incorporation into the habitual diets of the communities and the food systems in general. By completing original research in this field I will make a novel and necessary contribution to the literature and hopefully offer innovative multisectoral solutions for improving nutritional status of vulnerable communities.