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R Hemalatha takes charge as Director, National Institute of Nutrition

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 09, 2018

R Hemalatha, appointed Director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad (file pic)

India’ triple nutrition burden — under-nutrition, anaemia and over-nutrition — will be among the top priorities for R Hemalatha, the new Director of the country’s premier National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad. The 1000 Days Programme of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), piloted by the NIN to take care of the nutrition health of the mother and child up to age two, will be another important driver for her.

Hemalatha, a medical graduate from Gandhi Medical College, Hyderabad, assumes office at a historic moment as the institute enters its centenary year. Also, she is a full-fledged director, designated after five years to one of ICMR’s top and oldest institutes.

The 1000 Day Initiative has the backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. There is a serious emphasis to strengthen the nutrition health of adolescent girls through proper interventions so that they are better prepared for motherhood. In India, nearly 50 per cent of women are anaemic and 30 per cent under-nourished.

Expressing confidence in steering the institute and its projects ahead, Hemalatha told BusinessLine, “We should start the intervention a few months before the 1000 Days because of anaemia among women. From conception to age 2, all organs of a child grow and the brain develops”.

During this critical juncture in the development of the child and mother’s health, external factors such as proper nutrition, environmental toxins and pollution can play an important role in the duo’s health. Therefore, the initiative assumes significance, she says.

Announcing her appointment ICMR said, Hemalatha, a senior grade deputy director, is a highly accomplished scientist and has vast experience in the field of maternal and child health, clinical and population-based studies. Referring to the triple burden, the Director said over-nutrition, which is leading to obesity and consequently to lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, is assuming huge proportions. Proper nutritional strategies to control this epidemic-in-the-making are urgently required. The NIN will do its part.

On her vision, Hemalatha says “We will align our objectives to the country’s mission of meeting the nutritional needs of the vulnerable and under-privileged, along with conducting top-class research and policy-related work”.

Hemalatha has served as secretary of the Nutrition Society of India, is a fellow of the National Academy of Medical Sciences and a fellow of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences. The NIN was started as a small lab in Coonor in 1918. It was moved to Hyderabad in 1958. Over the the years it has made far reaching contributions in nutrition and food in terms of fixing intakes, guidelines, nutrition Atlas, double fortification of salt, protein energy malnutrition, role of turmeric in cancer care to methi in diabetes, to a wide range of nutrition-related issues. It houses the best testing facilities for food and toxicology and has international collaborations. The Tata Trust has become a major parter in NIN's fortification programme.

Published on December 15, 2017

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