In September 2016, Byndis Eva Birgisdottir from the University of Iceland visited HiOA as guest lecturer funded through Nordplus’ exchange grants. Bryndis Eva gave two lectures for master student in public health nutrition as well as interested staff. The first lecture concerned the Icelandic diet and the second lecture the precede-proceed model.
Bryndis Eva Birgisdottir and Liv Elin Torheim (professors of nutrition at University of Iceland and Oslo and Akershus University College, respectively) gave a presentation of the “what” and “why” of public health nutrition education at the 11th Nordic Nutrition Conference in Gothenborg in June 2016. They explained how PHN has evolved and become increasingly relevant and that it is an ongoing effort to develop competencies in the field. Bryndis and Liv also introduced the network (NEPHN) and several in the audience expressed their interest to join the network.
The NEPHN has discussed and come up with a suggested definition for Public Health Nutrition:
PHN focuses on solving nutritional problems affecting population groups rather than those of individuals.
It evaluates the impact of sustainable food systems on the nutritional status, health and health inequalities based on the knowledge, skills, competencies and cultural heritage of the broader community.
It develops, recommends and implements evidence-based environmental, educational, social, economic, structural, political and legislative measures.
The second meeting for the Nordic network on Education in Public Health Nutrition (NEPHN) was held in June earlier this year, at Metropolitan University College in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The network agreed that there is a need for closer cooperation between academic institutions to create synergies and benefits, in order for the Nordic Public Health Nutrition (PHN) educational expertise to contribute to the general public health work in the region and beyond.
The first meeting in NEPHN was held in Oslo, Norway in October 2014. Representatives from all the member institutions were present.
Most of the meeting evolved around the progression for each activity described in the application. Each institution presented their suggested work-plan for their area of responsibility and the network discussed how to proceed with each task, as presented below.
Specific objectives for the 1st phase (June 2014-Oct 2015):
- Map PHN programmes offered in the Nordic/Arctic/Baltic regions
- Map e-learning platforms and facilities for PHN education
- Contact new potential partners and draft a work-plan for activities post Oct 2015
- Disseminate NEPHN: Develop a website, seminars, conferences, and be active on social media
In the future, the network plans to:
- Develop a Nordic core curriculum for accreditation of knowledge, skills and competencies required by registered public health nutritionists
- Develop a range of different e-learning PHN modules
- Develop an internationally renowned Nordic Master programme in PHN
A number of Nordic Council of Ministers initiatives are available to guide the work:
- Nordic Plan of Action on better health and quality of life through diet and physical activity
- Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark’s ‘Keyhole‘
- Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012
Nordic Health Challenges
- Most of the common Nordic health policy priorities are diet related, such as healthy aging, preventing non-communicable diseases and reduction of social health inequalities.
- The main causes of “health losses” in the Nordic countries include diabetes type 2, cardiovascular diseases and cancers
- The four major risk factors for these diseases are unhealthy dietary pattern, high blood pressure, obesity and tobacco smoking
- There exists enormous potential to promote health and prevent disease through targeting these risk factors
- To ensure that our targets in health promotion and diet-related disease prevention are achieved, it is crucial to develop a qualified public health nutrition (PHN) workforce in the Nordic countries
Why Invest in the Public Health Nutrition Workforce?
- Gains in population health are highly dependent on professionals with broad capacity to identify and respond to current health challenges
- There is considerable diversity of workforce capacity in different countries, with most countries having an underdeveloped workforce to address PHN issues
- The Nordic countries also suffer from a diverse and underdeveloped workforce in PHN, and could benefit from a concerted effort in developing skills and competencies of health professionals
- Such a development will encourage workforce mobility and exchange, as well as increased collaboration in public health nutrition research and practice
 Hughes R, Shrimpton R, Recine E, Margetts B. (2011) A competency framework for global public health nutrition workforce development: A background paper. World Public Health Nutrition Association. Accessible from: www.wphna.org