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Clare Farrand: saving lives through salt reduction

Meet Clare Farrand, Senior Project Manager working in salt reduction strategies around the world.

How long have you been working at The George Institute?

Since November 2015.

What attracted you to working at The George Institute?

The George Institute is well known as a leading global health organisation, and I was particularly excited to work amongst such experts and be part of an organisation that makes a real impact on population health. Not to mention – the opportunity to work in Sydney! 

How would you summarise the research you do and the difference it will make to health?

I work on population salt reduction, supporting countries to develop, implement and evaluate salt reduction strategies to reduce population salt intake, and the associated burden of disease. Salt increases blood pressure, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease – such as heart disease, heart attacks and stroke – the biggest killer worldwide. By reducing salt intakes, we can reduce the risk of such diseases, and save lives. 

Your recent study revealing the hidden amounts of salt in bread received a lot of media attention. Why do you think people were surprised by these findings?

Currently we’re all eating too much salt, and many of us don’t even realise how much salt we’re eating because it’s hidden in the foods that we buy. For example in bread. Many people may not realise that bread contains salt, because it doesn’t taste salty. Bread is one of the biggest sources of salt in the diet, not because it’s the saltiest food that we eat, but because we eat so much of it. Our recent study revealed that some of the saltiest breads were those that we often believe are the healthiest. This is surprising for consumer, and worrying – as it highlights how difficult it often is to make a healthier choice. That’s why we’re working with the food industry to reduce the amount of salt they add to our food, so the entire population can enjoy the health benefits of eating less salt.

What motivates you most in your work?

I have always been passionate about food and nutrition – and knowing that what we do can make a real difference to the lives of people around us is hugely motivating. Also, working globally means that I have the opportunity work with lots different people from different cultures, and experience places in a way I wouldn’t be able to normally as a visitor to the country. 

What is your professional background?

I am a public health nutritionist, and have been working in public health for the last 10 years – mostly in the UK at the UK Food Standards Agency within the Nutrition Division before going on to lead a global advocacy organisation – World Action on Salt and Health. 

Why do you enjoy working at The George Institute?

The people make the place. It’s inspiring to work with people that are so passionate about their work, and fun too! Everyone is really supportive, and my team made me feel welcome from the moment I joined the institute, which makes a big difference when you’re new to a country.

To explain to people what I do I say

I am a public health nutritionist and I work on policies and programmes to reduce the growing burden of diet related disease.

My biggest achievement so far…

I generally feel that my greatest sense of achievements come when I am outside of my comfort zone, overcoming that initial fear and (eventually!) enjoying the experience.  Moving from the UK to Australia, alone, and building a life here feels like just that.