Purple Carrot Nutrition
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CIND Nutrition Conference, Barbados 2017

by Janelle Zakour RD

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First blog post! 

So I've had the opportunity to be present at the Nutrition Conference and Health Expo put on by the Caribbean Institute of Nutrition and Dietetics this Thursday gone at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in Barbados. These conferences are for medical professionals and are sort of like 'updates' where new research and ideas are presented and discussed. It is also an opportunity for medical personnel to collect 'Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Credits' which are annual requirements for the maintenance of registration status (and general ability to practice) in a country.

 CIND poster

CIND poster

While I was a dietetic intern, little was known about the mandatory processes and procedures that were required to keep registration status. It was only until I was registered as a dietitian that I was educated about the importance of 'collecting credits' and continuing education. Basically, for as long as I decide to practice as a registered dietitian in Trinidad and Tobago, I am required by law to collect 15 CPEs each year as proof of constantly updating current knowledge. 

Then I happened upon this conference. It was an opportunity to kill a million birds with one stone as I was able to bag 11 out of the 15 mandatory CPEs AND explore the less touristy side of Barbados, thanks to Jo, my wonderful partner-in-crime.

As I've learned this weekend, Barbados is quite different from the other Caribbean islands in terms of scholastic requirements to be able to practice as a dietitian. They've moved in the direction of the US route and encourage dietetic hopefuls to be educated in the US if they ever plan on practicing in Barbados. Mind you, the University of the West Indies has a nutrition program and an accompanying dietetic internship but unfortunately it confines us to small island practice, with the exclusion of Barbados.

Lucky for me, I absolutely love being a Trinidad-based dietitian. I value the education that I've received in UWI and highly respect the practical aspect of the internship experience. Despite the politics which are present in any governing body, there is so much room for growth in our tiny island. And I acknowledge it more and more every day. 

Anyway, back to the conference.

A small side from Trinidad came out to represent and I was able to reunite with one of my classmates from Acadia after 6 years!

 Trini posse - Dietitians and Nurse

Trini posse - Dietitians and Nurse

 Acadia University classmates reunited! Barbados-based dietitian Victoria Cox and JZ.

Acadia University classmates reunited! Barbados-based dietitian Victoria Cox and JZ.

The conference began a little after 9 am. Classic Caribbean formalities, nothing ever begins on time. We heard from Dr. Zeno Charles-Marcel who spoke about Obesity and its link to Metabolic Syndrome as well as Blue Zones, and the possibility of having Barbados become a blue zone of the Caribbean. He was a brilliant speaker and I thoroughly enjoyed all of his presentations. Dr. Joy Peterson talked about Breastfeeding and its impact on reducing Childhood Obesity (this one caught my attention as I am currently undergoing training to become a breastfeeding counsellor). Dr. Evelyn Crayton stole the show though. She scrapped her planned presentation and decided to 'wing it' with her talk on Health Literacy and the importance of 'dumbing down' health messages to basic learn-to-read English to increase effectiveness no matter the target audience. She had me crying with laughter at some points.

 Dr. Evelyn Crayton on Health Literacy

Dr. Evelyn Crayton on Health Literacy

Dr. Ralph Peterson spoke about Functional Medicine and Obesity Prevention. This one also piqued my interest as I am currently studying functional medicine and it is a little known area of specialization in the Caribbean. I wasted no time running him down after the workshops to pick his brain. We also heard from a podiatrist about foot care and obesity and a psychotherapist about decreasing emotional eating.

 Barbados Food Guide - their take on the Caribbean 6 Food Groups

Barbados Food Guide - their take on the Caribbean 6 Food Groups

 They fed us well too!! Lunch was grilled marlin, fresh salad, beet salad, steamed farm veggies and a sunflower seed veggie lasagne.

They fed us well too!! Lunch was grilled marlin, fresh salad, beet salad, steamed farm veggies and a sunflower seed veggie lasagne.

After the conference, a handful of us stayed back for individual workshops with each of the presenters. I signed up for one with Dr. Charles-Marcel on Medical Nutrition: Food as Medicine. This to me was the highlight of the entire day. Even though it confirmed what I already knew through functional medicine, it elaborated on the potential to reverse Type II Diabetes Mellitus with a low-GI, low-carbohydrate diet. Which I throughly appreciated. Looking forward to being able to apply this new information in practice.

The entire day lasted about 12 hours and ended late. Classic Caribbean event coordination again. Overall though, it was an experience that was well worth the travel! Will definitely be back again. Thank you to CIND and Ms. Ester Selman for organizing such an engaging and informative experience!