I have two abiding commitments. One is to the independence and social responsibility of scientists. The other is to the health and welfare of the people – beginning with my own country, and also internationally. These are not only intellectual ideas. I learned them in the 1970s, at the time of Brazil’s period of military dictatorship, when I worked as a young paediatrician in poor rural villages and urban slums in the state of São Paulo, and also in Porto Nacional, a small city in the backlands of what is now the Northern state of Tocantins.
Also I learned that sustained protection and improvement of public health depends on a good understanding of the history, culture, resources and political regime of any country. These also depend on identifying the basic causes of disease and health, which vary with time and place. Brazil, a very big country, with many types of deep-seated inequity, and ruled in the last five decades successively by the military, social democrats and populists, taught me a lot about such aspects.
One more thing I have learned is not to take received ways of thinking for granted. As one example, with colleagues at the School of Public Health at the University of São Paulo, I am currently investigating the possibility that the most significant factor linking food with health and the risk of disease is not so much the food itself, or the nutrients in food, as much as processing – what is done to food before we buy and consume it.
My ongoing lines of research include population nutritional and food intake assessment; secular trends and biological and socioeconomic determinants of both nutritional deficiencies and of obesity and other nutrition-related diseases; and the evaluation of food and nutrition programmes.
International work includes studies on the studies on the linked nutrition and epidemiological transitions in low- and middle-income developing countries, in association with Barry Popkin and other colleagues.
MD and PhD, both at the University of São Paulo (USP). Two-year postdoctoral training at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, New York. Since entry in 1975 as an assistant professor, my entire academic career has been centred at the Department of Nutrition of the School of Public Health at USP. Tenured professorship acquired in 1990. Worked for the Nutrition Unit at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva 1990-1992, and was visiting Professor at the universities of Bonn and Geneva.