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Elva Gisladóttir

Elva Gisladottir 133x180My first recollection of nutrition as a subject is from the first biology class I attended in college. The teacher rated nutrition as important as general biology, and the teaching was vivid. In my early twenties I travelled for eight months to countries in South-East Asia, such as India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal. I saw just how bad the nutritional status of many communities in some of these countries was. I was shocked by the enormous socio-economic differences between these countries and the economically developed world, and how severely food insecurity affects people’s lives.

I started my higher education by taking a BSc degree in biology from the University of Iceland, of which I took one year as an exchange student at the University of Newcastle in Australia. Later I started working at the unit for nutrition research at the Landspitali University Hospital and University of Iceland, where I obtained my MSc in human nutrition. I worked there as a project manager for the Icelandic part of the EU-funded Seafood Plus Young project (www.seafoodplus.org) and also tutored practical lessons in human nutrition at the University of Iceland.

After obtaining my MSc I began working as a project manager in nutrition at the Public Health Institute in Iceland. In this job we focus on public health nutrition in various settings with the main objectives to improve national food habits. In Iceland, as elsewhere in the world, much of the overall burden of disease is attributed to the usual risk factors – overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, low intake of vegetables and fruits.

Public health nutritionists look very differently at things, compared with executives and politicians who take decisions and make policies that can affect nutrition and therefore health. Public health nutritionists need to have the drive to decrease this gap, between those who make the policies and those who work with nutrition. This has inspired me to work in public health nutrition and I hope I can make a difference in the future.