An inspiring young scientist specializing in connecting agriculture and food systems with sustainability and nutrition to achieve better human health and well-being has won this year’s APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education, known as ASPIRE.
Dr Jessica Bogard, a dietitian and public health nutritionist from Australia, took the victory with her research focusing on boosting the potential of underutilized local and indigenous food to reduce malnutrition, particularly among pregnant women and young children.
“One in every five deaths around the world can be prevented simply by consuming a healthier diet, that is around 11 million lives lost every year. It affects nearly every economy in the world and not exclusively to lower and middle income economies,” Dr Bogard said. “Agriculture and food systems are facing a complex challenge of having to not only feed the world, but to nourish people, and my research aims to brigde this gap.”
Dr Bogard pioneered the development of a database of nutritional quality of more than 50 species of fish and aquatic food and found that certain indigenous species of fish are rich sources of a multitude of micronutrients, but their availability is declining.
She has worked with local communities and research partners to improve the production of these nutritious food sources and empower communities to produce healthy food products based entirely on local ingredients. This resulted in the succesful development of products that have equal or better nutritional quality, and at the same time, provide livelihoods by building local supply chains and promoting traditional food culture.
“Through increasing women’s access to low-cost and simple harvesting methods, we are able to increase the frequency and the quantity of fish being consumed in vulnerable households.”
“I hope I can spread more awareness and visibility to the importance of nutrition so that we can scale up approaches in agriulture and sustainable food systems to reduce malnutrition globally,” she added. “I also wish to motivate more women and girls to pursue a career in science where we can play a part in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges.”
Dr Bogard was selected from a group of 12 finalists, each nominated by one of the APEC member economies under the 2021 ASPIRE theme, “Diverse Knowledge for a Sustainable Future.” Nominees, all under 40 years of age, were considered based on their commitment to both excellence in scientific research as evidenced by scholarly publication and cooperation with scientists from APEC economies.
“The extent of Dr Bogard’s research is far-reaching, providing practical solutions to improve human health through research, the improvement of the agriculture and food system as well as respecting local knowledge,” said Daniel Dufour, Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership for Science, Technology and Innovation, which oversees the prize. “The work of all the ASPIRE nominees this year has been inspiring and valuable for APEC as we pursue a sustainable and inclusive recovery and improve the region’s resiliency.”
The winner was announced during the APEC Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation meeting hosted by New Zealand last week. For her achievement, Dr Bogard was awarded a prize of USD 25,000, supported by Wiley and Elsevier.
“We continue to see excellence, innovation and commitment to diverse knowledge by talented scientists in the APEC region,” said Judy Verses, Executive Vice President of Wiley Research. “Dr Bogard’s work represents a remarkable achievement in the public health sector and shows the powerful impact of scientific research on society.”
“Through her research, Dr Bogard showed dedication, scientific talent, and practical knowledge in solving the current issue of malnutrition and developing sustainable solutions to public health and challenges, in particular, working with vulnerable communities in low- and middle-income economies,” concluded YoungSuk Chi, Chairman of Elsevier.
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