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Introduction: our profession

There are a many attributes that define and characterize an individual as professional and organizations as a profession. These include, having an ethical approach to practice (both how we think and what we do), having public good at the forefront of our agenda, being reflective in our practice and evaluating to improve the safety, quality and impact of our work. In a discipline such as public health nutrition, our role as professionals puts capacity building central to our mission and core to our role in the complex food and nutrition system in which we have chosen to work. It is therefore not surprising that main role of our work in the professional affairs portfolio is to build our capacity in public health nutrition.


Capacity can be broadly defined as the ability to carry out stated objectives. This can be taken at a global, national, local and individual level.

Capacity building can be considered as an ongoing process by which individuals, groups, organisations and societies increase their abilities to perform core functions, solve problems, define and achieve objectives, and understand and deal with their development needs in a broad context and sustainable manner1.


The determinants of nutrition capacity (the ability to achieve nutrition and health objectives) are numerous and have not been clearly defined. This 2008 paper by Elizabeth Baillie, Christel Bjarnholt, Marlies Gruber and Roger Hughes provides a framework for conceptualizing capacity building in public health nutrition practice.

The framework in this paper identifies a number of foundations and pillars for capacity building, including:

  • Resource allocation
  • Intelligence- having access to good data and information to assist decision making
  • Leadership- at all levels
  • Partnerships
  • Organisation
  • Best practice and quality practice
  • Workforce development
  • Community development

These all provide direction for our attention and activity within the professional affairs portfolio, however it is not surprising that workforce development stands out as a major focus.

In this section of the website we describe key action areas that have at its focus supporting the broad professionalization of public health nutrition as a practice discipline, in order to building nutrition capacity. These are work in progress, with varying degrees of progress to date. Within the limitations of our own current capacity we are enthusiastic to work with partners to take this work forward.

Roger Hughes
Professional Affairs Secretary


1 Horton, D., et al, Developing and Evaluating Capacity in Research and Development Organisations, 2003, International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) Briefing Paper. p. 1-8.