A Latin American Nutrition Leadership workshop was held in the Dominican Republic in November 2015. Out of more than 150 applicants, 24 emerging leaders from different Latin American Countries were selected. We represented Latin American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. We have all obtained at least a Master’s degree and most of us have a doctoral degree (or are candidates) and experience in nutrition field.
During one week of hard work we received training from Mario Valdivia on how to improve our communication skills, abilities to work in groups and the effective ways to collaborate. One of the most valuable experience was that we had the great opportunity to interview and network with the best nutrition scientists in the region (and beyond) and permanent committee of the Latin American Society of Nutrition (SLAN), Dr. Ricardo Uauy, Dr. Carlos Monteiro, Dr. Juan Rivera, Dr. Reynaldo Martorell, Dra. Vilma Freire, Dr. Daniel López de Romaña and Dra. Lyneth Neufeld. Some of the main topics that were discussed were avoiding conflicts of interest in research and funding, and the role food systems play as an important cause of malnutrition. We discussed in great length the double-burden of over- and under-nutrition faced by the Latin American region. While some of our countries are still facing nutrition deficiencies (stunted and micronutrients deficiencies), overweight and obesity are increasingly in an alarming way. At a personal and group level, we made the compromise to work over a period of 3 years to develop and implement a strategy to improve research capacity in our region and to strengthen the Latin American Society of Nutrition by involving their members in this plan.
We were encouraged by senior scientists to focus in our careers, stay close to our mission and to collaborate to improve the health and nutritional status of Latin American countries; in Dr. Uauy’s words: “It is not acceptable that in some Latin American countries exist children dying and facing hunger. We must act now”. So, as Emma Watson said a year ago now at the UN meeting, I am inviting you “to step forward, to be seen, to speak up.” Be a leader in your work and your community, be visible and work to improve nutrition in your countries. We all are leaders, and it is time to ask yourself “if not me, who? If not now, when?”