Dr. Fathima Sirasa is the latest member of the Applied Nutrition Department to complete her Ph.D. at Griffith University, Australia. She reassumed duties in May 2021 as a lecturer at the Department of Applied Nutrition, Faculty of Livestock, Fisheries & Nutrition, Wayamba University of Sri Lanka. Her Ph.D. involves identifying effective interventions to promote lifelong healthy eating behaviors in urban preschool children in Sri Lanka.
In her doctoral dissertation she identified that:
- The child’s food preferences are the core driving factor in their food decisions. Family characteristics including parents’ nutritional knowledge were next most influential.
- Dietary intakes of children were not well aligned with the national dietary guidelines.
- A six-week multicomponent intervention incorporating active family engagement was effective in improving children’s food knowledge and healthy food preferences. A six-month follow-up assessment would confirm the ongoing changes in food choices.
Her research findings highlight the need for changes in Sri Lanka’s national policy on Early Childhood Development to incorporate family engagement in preschool center-based health and nutrition activities and the embedding of nutrition education in the preschool education curriculum. These strategies can be an effective public health approach to overcome malnutrition in Sri Lanka and countries with similar income levels.
Her future research work aims to identify the nutritional issues in preschool-age children and strategies to overcome those issues.