Meet Our Corresponding Members: Dr. Gert Mensink
Dr. Gert Mensink
Where are you from?
Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany
Tell us about your work in general and about the surveys you contributed to GDD.
The Robert Koch Institute is the public health institute in Germany; our department “Epidemiology and Health Monitoring” is responsible for the national health monitoring system. Therefore, we regularly conduct national health examination and interview surveys for adults as well as for children and adolescents. It´s well known that nutrition plays an important role on health, that´s a reason why we always include questions on dietary behavior: for instance food frequency questionnaires, in these general health surveys.
However, there are also more comprehensive and quantitative food consumption surveys within these health surveys, such as the German Nutrition Survey 1998 and EsKiMo I and II (Eating study as a KiGGS Module - KiGGS is the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents). Data from the German Nutrition Survey 1998 and from EsKiMo I have been included in the GDD. My personal focus lies on all the dietary assessment methods and the analysis and interpretation of the data. In addition, I am also involved in physical activity and obesity epidemiology.
How did you become interested in the field of nutrition?
During my adolescence, I was somehow interested in food preparation, food physiology and health. When I started studying at the Wageningen University (The Netherlands), I first intended to study molecular biology. Yet I was instantly much more interested in human nutrition sciences because of its multidisciplinary perspective and high relevance for society and health. This was the perfect program for me.
What is one of the biggest nutritional challenges facing your country today?
The high prevalence of obesity. We need evidence-based policies to endorse interventions and environmental changes to help reduce obesity.
How do you see GDD factoring into your research in the future?
The global perspective and comparisons between countries are very important to make clearer what the most relevant nutrition problems in different countries are. It will also be helpful to set the directions of nutrition and health policies within these countries and may help enhance collaboration between health professionals and politicians, building a strong base to define priorities for action.
What directions and/or results do you hope to see in the field of global nutrition research in the future?
I hope we will find ways to reduce malnutrition worldwide in a “planet friendly” way, creating sustainable innovations. Prevention of health problems should be put higher on the agenda of all countries. We also have the responsibility as nutrition scientists to give nutrition more credibility and be more precise about the relevance of nutritional aspects for health, disseminating evidence-based knowledge to accelerate progress towards a more sustainable world and, at the same time, against this flood of misinformation in our field.