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Chantell Witten

Chantell Witten 130 x 180

My path in nutrition was quite by accident. I was very unclear as what I wanted to study despite being accepted for a BSc degree. A lunchtime lecture on the dietetics profession made me switch to a four-year dietetics degree. My first year as a clinical dietitian in a very large urban hospital in the poorest province of South Africa convinced me that ‘fixing nutritional problems’ could not take place in the hospital setting. I then moved to the South African Sugar Association as the community nutrition liaison. And for the next four years, nutrition education became my passion travelling to every corner of South Africa teaching and training nurses and doctors about the management of diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

In 2001, I moved to the school of public health at the University of the Western Cape under the directorship of David Sanders. It was here that I learnt and experienced public health as a researcher in South Africa’s first provincial vitamin A programme and South Africa’s turbulent times as it implemented the first provincial prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV programme. And still today, the breastfeeding saga and debates continue.

After my three-year tenure as the country director of Helen Keller International in Bangladesh, I returned to South Africa in 2009 to work with Mickey Chopra at the South African Medical Research Council. I am now currently the nutrition specialist with UNICEF in South Africa.

BSc (dietetics) and MSc (nutrition management), University of the Western Cape, South Africa.