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Report on participating in the New Zealand and Australia Joint Nutrition Societies Conference - 2023

Written by Cassie Slade, Lifestyle Facilitator, schools. 

Every four years the Nutrition Society of New Zealand and the Nutrition Society of Australia host a joint conference. This year it was held at Massey University in Auckland and the theme was ‘Nutrition & Wellbeing in Oceania’.   

The programme had speakers from across the Pacific with sessions ranging from Nutrition in our Land & Water, to Nutrition in Education Settings and Nutrition & Wellbeing. There were also plenary speakers focusing on gut health, women’s health and monitoring diets across New Zealand and Australia. Abstract sessions involved brand new research covering all aspects of nutrition; and for the first time the conference included practical workshops. These smaller workshops gave delegates scope to choose sessions in subjects in which they wished to upskill and allowed participants a more hands on and interactive learning experience. 

Plenary session highlights for me included Professor Nick Rāhiri Roskruge who talked about food sovereignty and food security in Aotearoa, including plants of significance for Māori. Another great session was on Gut Health, which included lectures from Professor Michael Schultz, Professor Nicole Roy, Dr Mathew Snelson and Dr Yanan Wang. The session stressed the important part the gut has to play in a wide variety of bodily processes and the influence on the gut of diet and especially fibre intake (an important aspect of diabetes management). There was an interesting talk on the ‘Assessment of Food Availability in New Zealand Primary Schools’ by Danika Pillay, who used the Ministry of Health Food and Drink Guidance for Schools traffic-light system to assess school food environments. This highlighted that most school canteens do not meet ministry guidelines and this is more prevalent for lower decile schools and those in high deprivation areas.  I also enjoyed Dr Sam Murray’s talk on ‘Supporting Resilient Communities in the Pacific’, which discussed how climate change is affecting kaimoana/seafood and how we can empower communities to negate these issues so that this type of food can be harvested and enjoyed safely. 

Lifestyle Team Leader Diana Anderson and I both attended workshops on ‘Nutritional influences on Mood, Performance and Neurocognitive Function’ and ‘Values-guided Dietary Behaviour’. These were very helpful in understanding the link between nutrition and behaviour, and providing practical tools to help guide people through behaviour change towards healthier lifestyles and diabetes management.

The conference itself was a great opportunity to meet colleagues from the nutrition space, to make new friends and catch up with old ones. The buzz was fantastic and as the last joint conference had to be postponed due to COVID-19, it was wonderful to once again get to meet face to face with our colleagues from all over the Pacific.