Rita Barradas Barata
Faculdade de Ciências Médicas da Santa Casa de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brasil. firstname.lastname@example.org
Since epidemiology emerged as a scientific discipline in the early 19th century, nutrition has been identified as one of the main determinants of health. The relationship was initially associated with the main nutritional deficits experienced by the poor and exploited urban masses that sold their labor to provide the conditions for the development of capitalism in the Western countries. For countries like Brazil, located on the periphery of capitalism, deficient nutrition (in the form of under-nutrition or malnutrition) has been associated historically with the incidence and severity of infectious diseases affecting different age groups in the poor population.
Social transformations throughout the 20th century led to important changes in the population's nutritional profile and its relationship to various diseases. Obesity (together with deficiencies in certain micronutrients like iron) now constitutes the main nutritional problem in both the developed and developing countries. Along with smoking, alcohol, and sedentary lifestyle, obesity has been identified as a key target for health promotion activities and the prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases.
However, despite the antiquity of malnutrition and the ubiquitous relationship between eating, nutrition, and health/disease, the development of nutritional epidemiology presents a series of methodological challenges arising from the difficulties faced in observational studies in "isolating" and adequately measuring such intricate exposures. Complex methodological issues in both the definition of adequate measurement and observation instruments and the development and application of appropriate analytical techniques provide an excellent target for cooperation among researchers with common interests, in order to mutually empower their different experiences. Such is the case of research methodology in nutritional epidemiology.
This issue entitled Methodological Advances in Population Studies of Food and Nutrition is an excellent example of the potentialities of one of the programs developed by the Coordinating Division for Graduate Studies (CAPES) in partnership with graduate studies programs and scientific associations: the School of Advanced Studies (Escola de Altos Estudos).
The School of Advanced Studies was conceived to promote academic cooperation and international exchange between Brazilian researchers and renowned international faculty and scientific researchers. In addition to funding visits to Brazil by international professors and researchers, the program earmarks funds for recording the resulting activities in different media, including publications like this thematic issue.
The articles in this special issue allow readers to learn about the strides made by Brazilian researchers in nutritional epidemiology, besides taking various approaches to the challenges involved in state-of-the-art research in this field.
This thematic issue exemplifies the importance of pursuing balanced and high-level international scientific cooperation through Brazil's graduate studies programs in public health. We are confident that such initiatives will produce other outputs of the same outstanding scientific caliber as the special issue presented now to the reader public.