Meet Our Corresponding Members: Dr. Irina Kovalskys
Where are you from?
Argentine Catholic University. Nutrition Degree. Medicine School
ILSI Argentina. Nutrition, Health and Quality of Life Committee. Chair
Tell us about your work in general and about the survey(s) you contributed to GDD.
I'm a Pediatrician who specializes in nutrition. My work is divided between clinical practice with patients and research where I focus on prevention and treatment programs for childhood obesity and nutritional epidemiology. The questionnaires that we contribute to GDD come from the evaluation of a government program to prevent childhood obesity and non-communicable diseases, created by the City of Rosario, Province of Santa Fe. It was a very innovative program for the time it was carried out, and ILSI Argentina provided the know-how, technology, and methodology to evaluate the program. The results were shared at that time with the program coordinators, knowledge transfer was carried out, and we collaborated to produce material for scientific and academic dissemination both locally and internationally.
How did you become interested in the field of nutrition?
My first love with nutrition came from the pediatric clinic and hospital undernutrition. Then, as part of one of my residencies, I had the opportunity to undertake a scholarship at the Center for Research and Disease Prevention at Stanford University in the year 2000, from which I took direct contact with research in the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity and got involved in the path of research in the area. I returned to Argentina with the understanding that developing countries were experiencing a major nutritional transition and there was a lot of experience in undernutrition but very little in obesity, so prevention was the way forward.
What is one of the biggest nutritional challenges facing your country today?
As I said, Childhood obesity Prevention. I think that from genetics to behaviour, the whole map of obesity is a huge area of scientific knowledge in permanent development and both clinicians and researchers have a tremendous challenge, especially in developing countries were poverty and inequity are together.
How do you see the COVID-19 pandemic affecting food and nutrition in the populations you study or globally?
I believe we are facing a very critical moment in Latin America. The crisis we are experiencing will profoundly affect the two faces of malnutrition equally: undernutrition and obesity. It is a challenge for all of us to use all available resources of science and knowledge in the service of minimising this impact. On the other hand, something positive could emerge from this crisis: food systems are more than ever under scrutiny and could be improved for better nutrition in the future.
How do you see GDD factoring into your research in the future?
Being able to access an expanded universe of information on intake estimates may allow us to generate more accurate models of intake for each of our countries. In a region like Latin America, this can be a particularly useful tool. Having better-adjusted models and detailed access to successful practices in other regions of the world can promote studies with a more efficient use of always poor resources.
What directions or results do you hope to see in the field of global nutrition research in the future?
At the epidemiological level, I believe that we will continue the trend of some years of increased access to data and information. This has allowed us to have globalized data to know in depth the map of the prevalence of nutritional pathologies at a global level. On the other hand, undeveloped or developing countries should have better conditions to investigate and publish so that the presence of epidemiological studies is more equitable. Finally, I believe that we are also moving towards a precision medicine that will allow us, at the clinical level, to differentiate the interventions, more and more, according to the individual profile.
Thank you to Dr. Irina Kovalskys for contributing to this quarter's Meet Our Corresponding Members section.
This interview has been edited for clarity.