I was born in Kenya where I spent my childhood, with a bit of time in Switzerland, before moving to the UK in my teens. My interest in nutrition was sparked by the constant and often confusing coverage in the media – ranging from droughts and famines in Africa to excess food consumption and dieting in the global North. The stark contrast in food and nutrition experiences and health outcomes across the world led me to study nutrition in order to understand these complex issues and explore how I might do my bit to help to make a difference. During my undergraduate degree I undertook a one-year student placement with the National Heart Forum where I began to learn about the place of nutrition in public health policy.
Since completing my studies I have registered as a public health nutritionist and worked in policy development, advocacy, implementation and research. I joined Heart of Mersey – England’s largest cardiovascular disease prevention programme – when this organisation was in its infancy. As food and health programme manager, I led the development and implementation of a food and health strategy for the Greater Merseyside region (population of 5 million) in the North West of England. The diversity of nutrition programmes and activities I was involved in included advocacy on food, health and agriculture policies to members of parliament and civil servants at the national and European level (where 80 per cent of UK food policy is determined), healthy eating campaigns targeted at the public and media; projects to improve the food on offer in local restaurants, schools and hospitals; collaborative research projects with universities; and organising capacity building training sessions and conferences on public health nutrition.
I spent a year working as a senior researcher at University College London on the global research network on urban health equity. This was a follow-on project to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Through this role I was able to develop and expand my understanding of the underlying determinants of poor health and inequities across Africa, Asia and Latin America, particularly as they related to globalisation and urbanisation. I also had the privilege of working with a variety of inspirational scholars from around the world, including Michael Marmot.
I am currently international programme manager at the National Heart Forum. This is a leading UK non-government organisation concerned with the prevention of chronic diseases, where I lead on global health advocacy. This role is focused on policies and action to address the global determinants of the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. My advocacy efforts are primarily targeted at decision-makers in global policy-making institutions such as the World Health Organisation, the UN system in general, and UN member state governments, to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to address the determinants of non-communicable diseases, including the drivers of under- and over-nutrition in high-income and in lower income countries.
The issues I work on include policies to reduce the inequities in health and nutrition outcomes within and between countries; agriculture and trade policies; monitoring the activities of the food, drink and alcohol industries; and advocating for the introduction of evidence-based cost-effective fiscal, regulatory and market-shaping measures to help create environments which support people to adopt healthy ways of life. I am also involved in capacity building and training on these issues.