“My original interest in nutrition was purely academic as a tool to understand physiological impacts on the body. Unlike many current public health nutritionists I had an odd route to my current role. Moving from my first post doc at Southampton developing models linked to foetal origins of adult disease to using technique developed in my PhD to explore aspects of cardiovascular disease. I then detoured into social science research, training and development in sexual health (in the voluntary and public sectors) and later wider health promotion before reengaging with nutrition when joining the FSA 14 years ago. The rationale for that move was healthy eating interventionism experienced at the local level and a desire to do more and better through fewer interventions.
10 years plus, two different government departments/Agencies, but I’m still here – though it would be for others to judge my impact. Although governments have changed over this time, the work really is remarkably similar. The challenges of delivering pragmatic, evidence based policy are the same, as are the issues of communicating simple messages that make a difference and combatting the myths and good intentions that run contrary to the evidence. The new challenge in Public Health England is helping those delivering at the local level in the new health and social care system (and beyond) through ensuring support and guidance that really delivers behaviour change and change to the environment making the healthier choice the easy one.
So advice for those just embarking – communicate messages simply and clearly, keep your eye on the evidence, be pragmatic, persevere, don’t forget to evaluate the impact of your interventions and policies and remember that everything you do helps you grow as a specialist but you need to reflect on your work to gain the most benefit.”
Louis is a Registered Nutritionist and is the Nutrition Advice Team Manager at Public Health England.