Finding My Footing in Global Nutrition: HPC Fellow, Anna Mowell

Anna Mowell is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with PATH. At PATH, Anna explored the role of alternative proteins in sustainably meeting global nutritional needs by investigating the nutritional profile and quality of plant-based proteins. Read on to learn about her placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.

Throughout my first year of graduate study in the Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington, I developed a deep passion for public health and began to understand nutrition as a complex field that requires systems-level thinking and multidisciplinary solutions. Though my studies have primarily centered around nutritional concerns in the United States thus far, I have been eager to explore nutrition from a global lens, as it has become increasingly apparent that we must consider our food system within the context of a greater global system.

When I learned of the Nutrition Innovation fellowship at PATH, I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to gain new knowledge and strengthen my understanding of the complexities of global nutrition. PATH is an international nonprofit organization that seeks to promote global health and enhance health equity through technological development, innovation, and dynamic partnerships. As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, I have supported PATH’s efforts to explore the role of alternative proteins in sustainably meeting global nutritional needs by investigating the nutritional profile and quality of plant-based proteins.

In mainstream media, we hear a lot about the health and environmental benefits of increasing consumption of plant-based foods. The plant-based market has seen extensive growth, and it’s now quite difficult to go to a grocery store without noticing the growing number of substitute products made from plants like soy, pea, almond, and even mung bean. Yet, until my time at PATH, I had failed to consider plant-based products from a protein quality perspective. Whereas animal-source foods like meat, dairy, and eggs supply high-quality protein that is easily digestible and contains adequate amounts of dietary essential amino acids needed for growth and overall health, plants typically supply lower quality protein in comparison.

I had not yet extensively studied protein quality in graduate school, so my experience with PATH brought me into uncharted territory. As a Fellow, I worked to characterize the relative nutritional quality of various plant proteins to explore their potential role in helping to meet the nutritional needs of children under age 5 in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). When we examine protein adequacy across populations, we often consider total protein intake. Importantly, protein adequacy encompasses both protein quantity and quality, especially when considering the nutritional needs of young children undergoing rapid growth and development.

Overall, I found protein quality to be both fascinating and exceedingly complex. My work at PATH provided not only an excellent opportunity to expand my nutritional knowledge, but also a chance to reflect on the field of nutrition as a whole. The role of nutrition will undoubtedly continue to grow as we work to advance human health across all populations and recognize their diverse challenges, strengths, and needs. As we transition our focus toward planetary health, we will encounter new challenges and new opportunities to explore the intersection of human health, nutrition, and climate.

I am incredibly grateful to have spent time at PATH examining some of the most pressing issues in today’s global discourse and learning the importance of using systems-level thinking, collaboration, and research-driven approaches to accelerate health equity. In addition to the mentorship and guidance that I have received from members of the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH, I would also like to recognize the extensive support provided by the Hilton Prize Coalition. I am thankful for the investment from both organizations and hope to carry forward the new knowledge and skills that I have gained from this fellowship in my future career in public health nutrition.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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