Interview with Virginia Tijerina Walls; Mexico Country Representative

Interview with Virginia Tijerina Walls, MS, NC

Mexico Country Representative

By Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, FAND, CR Chairperson

Passionate about nutrition, global nutrition politics, her family and IAAND, Virginia is a strong and beautiful leader, role model and colleague ready to reach out and support anyone and everyone working on global dietary issues close to her heart, her priority childhood obesity.

Meet Virginia Tijerina Walls

Former top competitive Mexican national class Track & Field discus athlete and Zumba® instructor, this fitness-minded natural leader is always on the move.

Devotedly working on research, educating the public and press and impacting policy for preventing childhood obesity, our CR-Mexico, 2016 IAAND President, wife and mother of three grown children aged 24, 22, and 19, received a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics at the School of Public Health and Nutrition at Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon; a Master of Science from The University of Oklahoma, and is currently a PhD Candidate Sociomedical Science, School of Medicine at National Autonomous University of Mexico.

She is currently a Professor at Autonomous University of Nuevo León, works in the Mexican Observatory on Noncommunicable Diseases, and is also a consultant at Nutrien Nutrition and Health Consulting Agency (Nutrien Nutrición y Salud).

Virginia is one of the leaders who started the Kids Eat Right International (KERI) campaign around the world. In Mexico, she has applied several KERI tools and programs with a team of talented Mexican nutritionists and students. This year, on behalf of IAAND she will participate as speaker at FNCE 2017, in which she will present the results of a RD Parent Empowerment Program pilot implementation.

Country Health Issues Impacted by Nutrition

Mexico’s major health issue is the high prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, with overweight and obesity rates affecting 7 out of 10 adults. Moreover, 1 out of ten adults have diabetes while a quarter of the population has hypertension, and the numbers are increasing. Regarding healthy habits, only four out of 10 Mexican adults meet the recommendation of less than 2 hours of screen time per day. These are results from the latest 2016 National Health and Nutrition Survey. Among the barriers to eat healthy, the Mexican population mentioned lack of money to buy fruits and vegetables, lack of knowledge or time to prepare healthy meals, and lack of family support on eating healthier. The main barriers mentioned for the Mexican population to make exercise were the lack of time, lack of safe or adequate facilities and lack of motivation.

The government is working towards combating these diseases by implementing a national strategy that involves the participation of the public and private sector as well as the general population.

Opportunities & Challenges in Mexican Nutrition Practice

Nutritionists need to be better positioned in the health care team and the community. Despite of the high prevalence of noncommunicable diseases in Mexico and the impact they exert in the health system and the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country, the nutritionists are not always considered experts in the health-disease process. Thus they are not part of the decisions made in public policy, education, nutrition care process, among others, even though they have the qualifications and competences for the matter.

Nutritional guidance is not always provided by certified nutritionists.  Sometimes health coaches, trainers or homeopaths who lack a proper nutritionist certification give nutrition counseling. This allows food and nutrition misinformation to be spread into the general population, which puts them at high health risk, Furthermore, an overpopulation of nutritionists without an effective allocation and low-salary depreciate the profession making more difficult to effectively exert it in the areas that is more needed.

What are Mexican foods, seasoning, rituals and recipes special to you?

While many Mexican families are increasingly eating out more, traditional Mexican culture calls for family meals, sharing responsibilities in the kitchen, enjoying fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits and legumes, together with meat, fish and chicken. From the traditional rice and black beans to more complex dishes such as mole, Mexican food is vast and meets every taste. Good news’ celebrations including a newborn baby, birthdays, New Year’s Eve or Christmas gatherings such as Nochebuena (Christmas Eve dinner) always have a proper meal and a warm welcome to all guests. At Christmas Eve I prefer a traditional pork dish to share with my family, but it can vary according to the traditions and the Mexican region, as it being more of turkey in the north, or more traditional dishes like mole or tamales in the south. In my daily life, I always include fresh vegetables and fruits with legumes and meats.

What inspired you to become involved with IAAND?

To connect with like-minded nutritionists and dietitians from all over the world to share knowledge and experiences.  This has allowed me to enhance collaboration with other colleagues in order to improve the health of Mexicans and worldwide population.

To catch up with Virginia, join her in her movement to combat childhood obesity, KERI or public policy issues, follow her at LinkedIn: Virginia Tijerina Walls, MS, NC, Twitter: @VirginaTijerina @Nutrienmx or Instagram: nutrienmx and virginiatijerinawalls visit her website: www.nutrien.com.mx.