Conferences, collaborations and cancer: Nutrition without borders

Cities connected with lines on a blue globe.

Isobel BandurekIn October, Dublin hosted the 13th European Nutrition Conference, co-organised by the Nutrition Society (UK and Ireland) and the Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS 2019). Isobel Bandurek, our former Research Interpretation Manager, reflects on her experience of attending the conference.

In the opening ceremony of FENS 2019, Professor Helene McNulty spoke to a captivated audience about ‘nutrition sans frontières’ – how at its core, science and research is an international endeavour without borders. At a time when politics is so uncertain in many parts of the world, strengthening connections across the global scientific community has never felt more important.

An ICONIC beginning

During my time at FENS 2019, I was struck by the number of partnerships and alliances that exist or are being created – and all have a common thread of seeking to advance scientific understanding through collaboration. One such example is the new taskforce from the International Union of Nutritional Science called ICONIC. This stands for the International Collaboration on Nutrition in relation to Cancer.

At a symposium on capacity building, Prof Alan Jackson, a member of World Cancer Research Fund’s (WCRF) Continuous Update Project Panel, spoke about the need for a global voice in nutrition and cancer. The research communities in cancer, and in nutrition, have taken great strides forward in improving our understanding of cancer prevention and survival; however, these communities have historically worked and disseminated information in different spaces and, “spoken different languages”.

ICONIC seeks to formally address this gap by fostering a dynamic worldwide community of clinicians, researchers, patients, and the public to share knowledge, understanding, and best practice.

You can find more information on ICONIC, and get involved yourself online. And be sure to follow ICONIC on Twitter.

Capacity building in Africa

An exciting but, at present, small initiative is the eNutrition Academy (eNA) – an online training platform. This charitable organisation was introduced by Dr Francis Zotor (one of our WCRF Academy Fellows) during a late afternoon symposium. Dr Zotor spoke passionately about the need to build capability and capacity in nutrition among health professionals and researchers in African countries.

Although many courses in nutrition and health are available online, these are often not easily accessible with low internet bandwidth and are rarely tailored to the African context. That’s where the eNA steps in; providing context-specific, accessible online training. Feedback from participants has been positive – but the eNA needs input from global partners to continue and grow this initiative.

The WCRF global network

It was great to see so many different elements of the WCRF global network mobilised and in action. I attended a superb poster presentation by Dr Kathryn Beck (another one of our lovely WCRF Academy Fellows) and my own poster presentation received thoughtful questions from the audience, prompting broader discussion.

I heard WCRF-funded research presented in oral communication sessions (for example, a presentation by Elom Aglago sharing early results from an ongoing WCRF-funded project led by Dr Mazda Jenab). I even met up with previous WCRF staff and of course made many new connections from across the world.

Isobel Bandurek presenting at FENS 2019

Despite being a natural introvert, attending FENS 2019 was an energising experience; I have been filled with the optimism new partnerships and new links can bring. The future of nutrition science is looking bright – and it’s going to be a group effort.

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