14 January 2012

In appreciation of Philip Payne

This week I heard the sad news that Professor Philip Payne passed away.
Based at the Nutrition Policy Unit (set up by ODA, now DFID, in 1977) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, he was one of the key shapers of nutrition and nutrition policy in the 20th century, with plenty of implications for the 21st.
He did lots of big things. Three stand out for me.
  1. He helped to debunk the idea that malnutrition was due to a protein gap. He and others pointed out that if there is a calorie deficit in the diet, then a focus on protein is merely an expensive and not nutritionally useful way of filling that gap.
  2. He bridged the gap between the nutrition, economics and political worlds. He was one of the first to recognise that these drivers were fundamental to reducing undernutrition.
  3. He focused on function, stress and adaptation. Using language that would be seen as in vogue today, he and people like Michael Lipton and Richard Longhurst introduced nuance into the various debates about when coping with stress incurred unacceptable costs and when it was a positive adaptive response.
Never far from controversy, renowned for speaking his mind, he would approve of the way the rest of the nutrition community is finally catching up with him.


david nabarro said...

Yes, he shaped my professional thinking in an extraordinary way and I see what is happening now as profoundly influenced by him. More to do on your no 3 - particularly his emphasis on functional groups.
And was a patient and careful teacher he was.

stuart gillespie said...

Philip was a quiet visionary. His work and teaching on the socio-economic and political drivers of undernutrition, on energy stress and seasonality was way ahead of the game. A sad day.

International Mailing List said...

Interesting Person, He is graduated from the University of Sydney in 1981 and admitted to practice a law in Australia and Papua New Guinea.