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What is Operation Smile's Nutrition Program?

What is Operation Smile's Nutrition Program?

As an organization, Operation Smile strives to deliver robust and holistic nutrition programs to ensure that patients are fit to receive safe, timely and effective surgical care.

My name is Ashley Myles, and I am the senior program manager of nutrition at Operation Smile. In my role, I have the privilege of working with 36 different countries around the globe as they develop and implement nutrition programs that provide nutrition care to Operation Smile’s most vulnerable patients who are malnourished or at-risk of malnutrition. 

At Operation Smile, we believe that all people, wherever they live and whatever their income, should have access to the care they need to live healthier, better lives. ​To achieve this vision, Operation Smile delivers nutrition care and builds workforce capacity where it’s needed most. Our programs take place in many contexts and are based on specific cultural needs, provider capacity, resources, patient population characteristics, program goals and other factors. To reach patients in rural areas, we work in the community, alongside community health workers and primary care providers.

Training around Breastfeeding

Globally, we estimate that there are likely more than 118,000 malnourished infants and children with cleft conditions less than 5 years of age. For every malnourished infant or child seen in an Operation Smile nutrition program, there are likely at least five others who have not been identified. Operation Smile is committed to strengthening the nutrition workforce where it’s needed most so that we can reach more patients in need of nutrition care. To do this, Operation Smile provides nutrition education training for health care providers, community health workers and midwives that enhance knowledge and increase resources to deliver nutrition care for their communities. ​

Operation Smile has developed a robust nutrition curriculum, which is utilized to provide standardized nutrition training on topics such as breastfeeding, dietary diversity and healthy foods, and cleft specific nutrition care to providers around the globe. The nutrition curriculum is provided through a combination of virtual courses and in-person training. Operation Smile’s virtual nutrition courses are on Operation Smile Academy, a university without walls providing access to free courses on a plethora of specialties.

A group of Operation Smile nutrition educators gather

Operation Smile launched our first in-person nutrition training in 2023 at Operation Smile’s first Comprehensive Care Conference. Sixty-seven healthcare professionals attended the conference, and 17 nutrition trainees from around the world were trained as trainers of the Operation Smile nutrition curriculum. They are now leading nutrition training in their region, exponentially increasing the impact of the initial training and increasing our ability to reach more patients in need of nutrition care. 

Education is at the core of Operation Smile nutrition programs. ​By investing in nutrition providers, Operation Smile is committed to reaching more nutrition patients and creating more sustainable nutrition programs that ensure every patient receives the care they deserve.

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