Tam, a 2014 participant in the Transform Nutrition Short Course, tells us what he learned during that week, how he has been able to put it into practice and what he has gained from being part of the Transform Nutrition Leaders Network since then.
My name is Sutayut Osornprasop but I am known to my family and friends as “Tam”. I live in Bangkok, Thailand, where I was born and where I have spent most of my life. After studying Political Sciences at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, I worked for ASEAN in their Higher Education cooperation arm and then moved to Cambridge, England to complete my PhD in Politics and International Relations.
I returned from Cambridge nine years ago to start working for the World Bank as a Human Development Specialist in the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice. Although I have worked on a range of health issues during this time, I only started working on nutrition a couple of years ago: I had experience of using a multisectoral approach and the World Bank needed someone with this knowledge for a new nutrition project they were developing in Lao PDR, so I was put forward for this project and I have been working on nutrition ever since.
From Thailand and Lao PDR
Thailand hasn’t had a big problem with undernutrition since the 1990s and more recently, its main challenge is overweight children and obesity. Although Thailand and Lao PDR are neighbours their nutrition challenges are completely different, so when I started to work on nutrition in Lao PDR I was shocked. When you move across the border, you can see the effects of undernutrition, many children don’t have access to enough food and they are much shorter than they should be, particularly in remote, mountainous areas.
I have also been driven and motivated by the high long term costs associated with not addressing undernutrition. We know stunting has a negative effect on the cognitive development and ability of children, we know this later affects educational performance and jobs prospects for the individual. Not only are there high costs for the individual, but this also negatively affects the country’s development potential as a whole. If children were just given nutritional interventions, then their life would be very different and this seems like a relatively simple but effective way to improve the lives of all Laotian people.
‘Nuts and bolts’ of nutrition
I took the Transform Nutrition Short Course in 2014. I was still quite new to nutrition so I had quite a lot to learn. The course was really useful for me in this respect as it gave me the ‘nuts and bolts’ of everything I needed to know about nutrition for my new role at the World Bank. The course content was extremely relevant and it certainly took my knowledge to another level.
The knowledge I gained from the course has since become part of me, so this knowledge is with me while I am working, making decisions or giving advice. For example, I have used the knowledge from the course while I have been designing a $26 million Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project in Lao PDR, which was recently awarded the World Bank Vice Presidential Award, and was commended for its strength on multisectoral collaboration. I have also benefitted from the connections I made at the course, because I can now pick up the phone or email the course convenors, who are always happy to speak with me and give me advice.
I would highly recommend the course and the supporting network. There are a lot of policymakers, who like me, might study something very different to nutrition but then find themselves working in quite an influential position where they need to understand the issues and how to address them. The course is a hub for this support and guidance.