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A Healthcare Professional’s Review of The Healthy and Sustainable Diets MOOC

I am a medical practitioner from Nigeria working with the Saudi Ministry of Health with an interest in public health. Along with many others from different fields of study and areas of expertise from all over the world, I participated this summer in the Healthy and Sustainable Diets MOOC offered by the School of Health and Related Research within the University of Sheffield in England.

Navigating through the course was not as difficult as I expected. This was the first course in the school’s open online initiative, known as MOOCs@ScHARR, and the class was made more interesting with a highly helpful and interactive course team that demystified mooc learning! The Healthy and Sustainable Diets class helped me access numerous helpful resources: articles, books, journals, presentations, highly interactive webinars, videos of rich content, and interviews with stakeholders and policy drivers like Professor Tim Lang, Sue Dibbs of the eating better initiative and Mary H. Higgins.

The course enlightened me on the concepts of a sustainable diet, life cycle analysis and the human ecological foot print. One of the main primary areas we covered was the impact (green house gas emissions and others) of the consumption of meat, dairy products and fish on human health and the planet. We studied shifting global dietary patterns and efforts to shift policies to support consumption of sustainable diets, government guidelines and how they could be translated to advice for consumers.

The course enabled me appreciate the importance of fair-trade and local food networks, such as the cassava flour revolution introduced by the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and the promotion of other local crops like maize, sorghum, bulrush millet, soya beans, groundnuts, palm kernel, etc. It also made me appreciate the efforts to protect the environment by the efforts by the late Kenule Besson Saro Wiwa of the Niger delta of blessed memory. The course has made me more conservative of resources I see everyday such as water, electricity, food and transportation. I also learned the vegetarian diet is not as bad as it has been described and that we need to reduce our meat consumption with respect to children and  pregnant women.

In May of this year, I initiated and co-facilitated a breast and cervical cancer awareness campaign and mass screening program in Taraba state, Nigeria. The many cases of cancers and pre-cancers we saw are a reflection of the interplay of genetics and the environment. A lot needs to be done because Nigeria, just like many other developing countries, is faced with a triple burden disease!

I have started to use what I learned in Healthy and Sustainable Diets about the benefits of more vegetables and local produce. I proposed the tofu derived from soybeans planted in a sustainable way to replace meat, owing to its high protein, lower cholesterol and cancer protective nature. The course has enabled me to draft recommendations for policies and legislation concerning fishing, land use reforms, farming, deforestation, refuse disposal, nutritional advice to my patients and clients here in Saudi Arabia and in Nigeria. I look forward to counseling Nigerian school children on healthy and sustainable diets so that they imbibe a healthy culture as adolescents.

I am nostalgic for the discussion forums in this MOOC, because I always  looked forward to the interesting links, articles, videos and comments  after a hectic day. I have recommended the course to my colleagues in Nigeria, Sudan, Ghana, South Africa, UK, India, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, UAE etc. I recommend it to anyone with the interest in improving his/her ways in living a healthier and sustainable life and to provide the unborn generations with same! You do not have to be in the medical field to go for this course.

Cheers to a healthier and sustainable future!


Hannatu Ayuba Usman is a medical practitioner with the primary health care commission, Saudi Araba Ministry of Health, with four years history of medical practice in Nigeria with the Kano and Taraba State Specialist Hospitals.A graduate of Ahmadu Bello University with profound interest in health promotion, caring for people living with HIV/AIDS/STIs and girl child education. She recently initiated a breast and cervical cancer awareness campaign and mass screening program at Taraba. She has volunteered as a fund raising supporter for the Myasthenia Gravis Association, Kaduna chapter 2003-2007 and as a counselor for less privileged children who were re-enrolled in school with the Education Peace Network, Kaduna chapter in 2002-2003. A mother of two, she loves gardening, interior decoration and cooking! You can reach her by email at hannatuayuba at gmail. You can view her LinkedIn profile here.


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