Amy Deptford is a Public Health Nutritionist and presently working as a Policy Officer at the NGO Yorkshire Cancer Research. She is responsible for developing evidence-based strategies related to cancer awareness campaigns and communicating them in a strong and influential manner. Her earlier work experiences include working as a Nutrition consultant in organizations such as the World Food Programme and Save the Children. Amy is driven to alleviate food poverty with a strong interest in nutrition-sensitive and sustainable food systems.
Amy, you have worked for the World Food Programme and Save the Children. How are these organizations contributing to future generations eating healthier and more sustainable?
Save the Children works with partners at all levels to prevent malnutrition by delivering a wide range of integrated, multi-sectoral (i.e. health, nutrition, agriculture, livelihoods, social protection, and education) programs in communities via health workers, volunteers, and health staff in health facilities. Their programs aim to address adequate food and nutrient intake, effective feeding and care practices, and access to micronutrients through dietary diversity measures. They also galvanize and capitalize on political commitment and support the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, a global platform that is active in more than 30 countries. They convene the SUN Civil Society global network and facilitate coalitions in several countries to build capacity in nutrition planning and policy.
The United Nations World Food Programme is the largest humanitarian organization that delivers food assistance in emergencies and works with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. In emergencies, WFP is often the first agency on the ground providing food assistance, which they buy as close as possible to where it is needed, or cash assistance to help sustain local economies. When the emergency subsides, they help communities rebuild their livelihoods. They also play an integral role in inter-organizational initiatives such as the Committee on World Food Security, the SUN Movement, and the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, as well as government-led partnerships with UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, businesses, and academia. WFP also plays a leading role in private sector partnerships as co-convener of the SUN Business Network.
Your current position is as a policy officer at the NGO Yorkshire Cancer Research. What are your main responsibilities there and how are you making in impact?
My main responsibility is to use national and international evidence to develop the charity’s knowledge and position on key topics related to cancer prevention, screening, early detection, and treatment. I then use this information to create the charity’s public-facing key messages, which are used in our cancer awareness and prevention campaigns, press activity and guide our £10 million a year research and services funding priorities. I also have a strong regional influencing role and work in partnership with external stakeholders on areas of mutual interest.
What's your vision for our food and nutrition system of the future? What role will nutrition experts play?
My vision of a food and nutrition system is one of holism and interconnectedness. It must end hunger and all forms of malnutrition, provide durable livelihoods as well as accessible, affordable healthy diets for all, in a way that is inclusive, sustainable, and respects our planetary boundaries. This is no mean feat and as nutritionists, we cannot do it alone. Such a vision requires a substantial investment, innovation, high-quality data, and political will. The multi-sectoral nature of malnutrition requires individual, institutional, and system-level collaborative engagement and coordination. We must present the science in a way that is unequivocal and use it to foster policy coherence and coordination across the agriculture, environment, energy, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health, education sectors, fiscal policies, economic and social development.
Do you have a role model? Who or what inspires you?
I will be forever grateful to my mum who taught me how to cook when I was a little girl – bread, pastry, soups, stews, roasts – I could do it all by the time I was 11. If it were not for her igniting my love for food and my inspiring nutrition teacher at secondary school, I honestly do not know what I would be doing with myself today!
What is nutrition - in one sentence?
I came across this definition of nutrition in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition a few years ago and it really struck a chord with me:
The ramifications of nutrition are universal. It is the cornerstone of preventive medicine, the handmaiden of curative medicine, and the responsibility of every physician.
I like it because it emphasizes the essentialness of science. I would however add that I believe to be nourished is a fundamental human right that should be achievable for all. I also believe that nutrition is the responsibility of all of us, from physicians to policymakers, the private sector, the food industry, and us as individuals – we all have our role to play.
Do you have a favorite article or book that every nutrition expert should read?
I recently completed a postgraduate certificate in public health - health promotion. It was a fantastic course, which really challenged my existing knowledge, values, and current practice. In particular, it made me reflect on who is responsible for health, and therefore, who is responsible for ensuring that we are a nourished population. I would highly recommend the following papers:
Why behavioural health promotion endures despite its failure to reduce health inequalities: Baum and Fisher, 2013.
A systematic review on empowerment for healthy nutrition in health promotion: Brandstetter, Rüter, Curback and Loss, 2015.
Why is changing health-related behaviour so difficult?: Kelly and Barker, 2016.
Moving from information transfer to information exchange in health and health care: Lee and Garvin, 2003.
Has empowerment lost its power? Woodall, Warwick-Booth, and Cross, 2012.
I would also recommend this book and encourage fellow nutritionists to reflect on how they communicate the science to those they support: Health communication: Theoretical and Critical Perspectives: Cross, Davies, and O’Neil, 2017.
Get in touch with Amy Deptford via LinkedIn, or Twitter, and get to know more about her work and her publications.
This interview was carried out by Lia Marlen Schmökel, Co-Founder of NUTRITION HUB.