Kirsty Cave: Health Promotion Officer, South Metropolitan Public Health Unit (WA Health)
I choose Nutrition as I was interested in healthy eating and the dieting phenomena from a young age after seeing family members try to lose weight. When it was time to choose a uni degree to work towards at high school, a questionnaire I completed at school showed I might have an aptitude for nutrition so it seemed like a good choice.
The nutrition undergrad course was a lot more scientific than I had expected but I still enjoyed the challenge. When it came to deciding what to do at the end of the nutrition course in 2006, I was quite certain that dietetics wasn’t for me as I wasn’t too keen on working in a hospital every day. I had enjoyed the public health nutrition units the most out of the undergrad so I enrolled in the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Promotion. I enjoyed every moment of the post-grad I completed in 2007, the prevention model seemed to make much more sense to me than treating people who were already sick!
Curtin was the only university that offered straight nutrition and health promotion degrees at the time I was studying. I also knew that Curtin has good reputation in the health sciences field, so it was an easy choice.
Having the nutrition degree and health promotion post-grad gave me a good grounding in the role of public health and preventative health, and the ability to plan, implement and evaluate nutrition programs and projects. The classes held in facilities such as the food lab were great experiences and staff were generally supportive and helpful.
I have worked at a not for profit women’s health service (a position I gained while still studying for my postgrad diploma in Health Promotion), in the promotion of Bowel Cancer Screening in the UK and in my current position as a health promotion officer focusing on nutrition in the Armadale health district. Day to day, I get the best of both worlds. I plan and run community kitchens as part of a larger healthy living program with parents at local schools. I have planned and developed resources to complement the work that we do with the community. I have also been involved in starting up a local food coalition to address food security in the local area. Partnerships are integral to our work and I have developed important links with local councils, other departments in WA Health and not-for-profit organizations, both local and statewide who are interested in healthy eating. It’s fantastic to have the ability to look more widely at the food environment in a community and work towards improving the health of many. Every day is different which always keeps things interesting!
I think it is important for those studying nutrition to know that dietetics isn’t the only route open to them. I have had a lot of job satisfaction and enjoy working with communities to improve their nutrition and cooking skills. I get to work towards improving the whole environment around food that is very rewarding as healthy eating is about so much more than personal behaviour. The flexibility of having the health promotion background is also fantastic as I have been able to use my skills in areas outside of the nutrition field, although it still remains my passion.