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Asma Ali

Asma Ali 130 x 178I come from a Malaysian middle class family. I did not experienced hunger during my childhood, but as many siblings were born we had to be careful. We were not that conscious of healthy eating but we were taught to eat moderately. During childhood, we had proper mealtimes and sat and ate together around the table. It was nice. And none of us had problems with bodyweight. As I grew up, I understand what my mother taught us. It was more into putting moderation on every food that we consumed and how foods manage to put us together.

My father motivated me to pursue nutrition: he saw how foods significantly relate to human life. I began to take it seriously as I entered the school of medicine and took the degree in bachelor of nutrition and community health. After graduation, I worked as a research assistant and assisted the food plan standard project for the Malaysian population. It was during that time that I was offered a scholarship to study for a master’s degree. I felt really excited!

For that degree I conducted a study on food choices, diet quality and nutritional status of married couples in a selected urban area. I found interesting and important to know or measure how good is our diet. When somebody asks us ‘how good is my diet?’ we can’t really say much based on diet recall only. Of course, Malaysia has the recommended nutrient intakes and energy requirement for nutrients, but we don’t consume nutrients, we eat food. So a food based screening tool (or diet quality index) is important. People can then easily measure how good their diets are and make changes.

I am a tutor in Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), Malaysia. My areas are diet quality, community nutrition, and dietary guidelines. As a prerequisite to become a fully-fledged lecturer, I am required to complete a PhD in my area. Hence, I intend to develop a PhD thesis related to issues of diet quality and associated tools that may enhance the capacity of health policy-makers, managers, planners, and health public authorities to identify from a range of options, the most effective in promoting and achieving the level of good dietary quality to the population. Currently I am doing my PhD at the University of Southampton, UK. My research will be on developing a food-based dietary guideline for the Malaysian population. My hope upon completion of this PhD is that I may become an expert in my field and able to contribute to the future of my country.