Interview with Laurene Boateng, RD
IAAND Ghana Country Representative
By Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, FAND, CR Chairperson
I am feeling blessed to have the opportunity to speak with our Ghana CR Laurene Boateng this holiday season. Laurene, who in her spare time from teaching, finishing her PhD, completing research in infant feeding in a remote village, being a wife and mom to three children gives back to her church and spiritual life which is her rock, her centering in a what one could say is a very busy life. Her faith, family and love for her career drive her each and every day. The joy she feels was transcended across the WhatsApp conversation we enjoyed together. Her personal philosophy “Everyone deserves to know and understand how nutrition affects their health.” Conveys her conviction.
Meet Laurene Boateng
Laurene is a mother of three children, two girls and one boy (named Samantha-Ann, Stephanie and Solomon, and aged 14, 12, and 10 respectively) and wife to banker, Solomon. This Ghana born and raised dietitian is the 4th of 5 siblings. Two of her older siblings are medical doctors and her other 2 siblings help their parents to run a small family business. Laurene always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
While her primary degree was in biochemistry, teaching science in primary and secondary school changed her life and the course of her career. She pursued a Graduate degree in dietetics and nutrition, and with a professor’s mentoring, was inspired to immerse herself in the improvement of infant nutrition. Laurene holds a BSc Biochemistry degree, post graduate diploma in education, MPhil Dietetics, and is currently completing PhD nutrition degree at the University of Ghana
Laurene has served as a lecturer at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Ghana since August 2010 and continues to serve to date. In October 2013, she played in lead role in the organization of the first workshop on the Nutrition Care Process (NCP) for dietitians and dietetic students and interns at the University of Ghana, College of Health Sciences. This first workshop was organized in collaboration with colleagues from the Dietetic Internship Program of Iowa State University (ISU). Following this workshop a survey was conducted in 2016 which revealed that majority of dietitians in Ghana, implemented the NCP only partially in their work environments. This led to the organization of a second NCP update workshop in June 2017, this time with collaborators from ISU and University of North Florida. Laurene is excited about dietetics and is currently pursuing an emerging interest in research on dietetics practice in Ghana.
Country Health Issues Impacted by Nutrition
Ghana is seeing a steady rise in many of the chronic diseases seen in the West—heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Fast food is popular with popular brand name restaurants opening especially in Accra, the capital city little activity or attention given to exercise and daily physical activity. Infant, stunting which impacts 19% of the infant population, it remains an area of concern, to which Laurene has devoted her PhD dissertation. Her research looked at the impact of supplementing infants with the sustainable plant Moringa leaf powder, a valuable source of numerous essential vitamins and minerals n infant growth and micronutrient status.
Opportunities in Ghana Dietetics
Ghana welcomes ex pats, dietetic students desiring to pursue degrees. Three universities currently offer undergraduate dietetics programs after which there is one year of internship in a public health clinic setting, under the supervision of a dietitian. After this internship period, one can take the registration exam to become a licensed RD.
There are approximately 100 dietitians in Ghana, “mostly young” as Laurene describes herself as one of the “elder statesmen” in a field that is rapidly growing in her home country. Expats are welcome and generally taken under the wing of a practicing dietitian. There is a local and country dietetic association but no annual conferences like FNCE. Laurene looks forward to encouraging more Ghanaian dietitians to join the Academy and IAAND by pursuing scholarships and funding that can assist her fellow country dietitians. This she hopes will enrich dietetics practice in Ghana through enhancement of knowledge and skills of dietitians in Ghana via the Academy’s diverse learning opportunities.
Traditional Food & Recipe Traditions
Tropical starchy vegetables in Ghana are a staple, with cassava, yams, plantains etc featuring regularly in local meals. Rice is also a popular staple as well as grains such as beans and groundnuts. Fish, meats and poultry are also popular sources of proteins. Local stews are prepared mostly with palm oil. While the gift of eating together as a family is not always affordable with work schedules interfering and modern ways directing people towards meal take out and fast food stops, family meals over weekends are still popular.
Some of Laurene’s favorite family dishes are Fufu and light soup with tilapia. Fufu is a meal made from pounded cassava and plain, whilst light soup is made from vegetables such as garden eggs and tomatoes and other local spices. Tilapia is a fish that is a local delicacy which her family enjoys eating.
For more information on dietetics practice in the Ghana
The link for the universities with dietetic programs are:
University of Ghana, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics
University of Health and Allied Sciences, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics
University of Cape Coast, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics
The local dietetic association name and link:
Ghana Dietetic Association
The agency for licensure name and link:
Allied Health Professionals Council