Health and Nutrition now becomes one of the major factors in forming the next generation of our nation. Irma Hidayana, one of the alumni from PRESTASI scholarship program whose mission is to participate in improving the access to good nutrition. Through PRESTASI, she took Community Health Education at Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA.
Her study at Montclair State University has helped her learn about public health and nutrition science. She was also introduced to a large number of studies of breastfeeding she had not known before. She, therefore, felt encouraged to take more study time in order to learn the knowledge more deeply.
"When I was studying my master's degree, I 'met' with the thoughts of the professors of public health nutrition regarding the impact of industry on public health: for instance, the impact of the lures of the companies producing infant formulas or other foods for babies on hindering the development of health and nutrition for a generation. Most importantly, I learnt how to collect and collate ideas and concepts and also how to draw conclusions regarding an issue, according to the scientific method," Irma added.
She admitted that she got a lot of knowledge, skills and experiences during her study in the US. She implemented them for real. When she did her internship as a consultant in UNICEF Headquarter in New York, she helped to formulate the proposal of global guidelines for dealing with conflicts of interest in industries when conducting the programs to alleviate child malnutrition in developing countries, including Indonesia. The guidelines contain the rules of what private companies/industry can do and mustn't do. The guidelines also talk about the criteria of the companies that are allowed and not allowed to support the programs related to nutrition for babies and children in developing countries.
Irma together with the members of the National Movement for Maternal and Child Health (GKIA) also provide some recommendations to the Ministry of Health as well as advocate the ambassadors of the First 1,000 Days of Life program sponsored by an infant formula producer. The program aims to help improving the nutrition for the babies and children under the age of two years. This program was shared among the media to introduce preventive ways to avoid malnutrition in babies and children through early initiation breastfeeding.
On several occasions, Irma also writes and shares her thoughts to some medias. "At the moment, I'm conducting the project #KolaborASI, which aims to implement the breastfeeding advocacy and the industry's conflicts of interest science to more popular media. It's like when we collaborate with a graphic artist producing a poster about the risks of infant formula for the health of babies and mothers," she explained.
Currently, the woman who likes cooking and taking care of plants, works independently as the nutrition consultant for babies under five focusing on the conflicts of interest between the baby food companies and health and ecology. To support her profession, she is now pursuing her doctoral degree in Health and Behavior Studies department, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City, USA.
Irma said, the knowledge, experience and opportunity she got so far cannot be separated from PRESTASI's support. PRESTASI is a good program that opens opportunity for Indonesian students to learn comprehensively in local or overseas education institutions.
To the young people who wants to follow in Irma's footsteps, she would like to ask for those who already hold bachelor's degree to work for 1-2 years implementing their knowledge they have before pursuing their master's degree. Irma believes that working experience is the best way to learn and identify problem solving that we don't have during our study at the undergraduate level.