Nutrition Makes its Mark, British style

I have been quite silent on my blog these days. I guess just too much work is my excuse. The opposite can be said for what is happening with nutrition these days. Lots happening, little silence. What a year 2013 was, and a year 2014 is shaping up to be. The call for paying more attention to nutrition is over. People are listening.

The Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) meeting will be held in November. The last time this meeting took place was 1992 and serves to focus on how to address major nutrition challenges over the coming decades. Let’s see what will come of it, but we can hope, for some innovative, inclusive and action oriented progress. Those organizing the meeting do need to ensure that all the appropriate players are sitting at the table. Not just the usual nutrition suspects that attend every meeting. Get the global health experts involved. Bring in climate scientists, demographers, the education sector, economists (not just agriculture economists…) and get them thinking about solutions for nutrition, for our future. Think drivers: climate variability, loss of biodiversity, water shortages, population pressure. These drivers will have profound impacts on nutrition outcomes. Get them in the dialogue!

The Scaling Up Nutrition movement is also pressing on. There are now 49 countries that have joined the movement. Impressive. We at Columbia University just finished a study commissioned by SUN to simulate nutrition sensitive investments. The overall purpose of this study is to help decision-makers in SUN countries prioritizing key nutrition-sensitive investments across different sectors as part of their wider efforts to improve nutritional outcomes. The study combines an extensive search of the literature with quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze the relationship between actions of different sectors and nutrition-relevant outcomes. The focus is on modeling relationships between contextual factors, sectoral interventions and outcomes that are associated with child stunting, or chronic undernutrition among children under five years. Contextual factors are characteristics of the surrounding setting that are related to the effectiveness of an association. I hope the report is released in a month’s time. Keep your eye out for that.

Call it the Old Blighty, Loegria or the Old Dart, England is really pushing forward the nutrition agenda these days. The Global Nutrition report, commissioned by DFID, will be released right around the time of ICN2 and is being led by Sussex-dweller Lawrence Haddad soon to be moving on from IDS to IFPRI. What a great person to spearhead what he is calling “a one stop shop for nutrition information.”  The report will provide a comprehensive view of the status of nutrition globally and at country level with a robust review and analysis of data to interpret progress towards malnutrition reduction in general and towards agreed targets.

Save the Children UK just released a fine report examining how “nutrition can be prioritized within agricultural policies, strategies and investment plans, and demonstrates the power of agricultural bio-diversity, social behavioral change, enterprise diversification, and women’s empowerment in improving nutrition in rural areas.” You can download the report here.

More from London: The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition is an exciting new initiative, based out of the London International Development Center, serving as the Secretariat, led by Jeff Waage, another awesome choice. The purpose of the Panel is to provide global research and policy leadership to maximize the contribution of agriculture and food systems to improve nutrition and health outcomes, particularly of women and children. Sounds cool. This work will pair nicely with the UNSCN work that I participated in this past year that examined the “nutrition sensitivity” of food and agriculture policies across 8 countries. Hopefully, that work will be published also in about a month. That leads me to another group doing interesting work on the nutrition/agriculture front: That is, ACF. They have published a number of reports both in policy and practice in the integration of nutrition and agriculture. Good stuff.

With England meeting their overseas development assistance UN target of 0.7% and their recent commitments to ending undernutrition with the UK initiated Nutrition For Growth summit, ramping up once again in Brazil this time, I think we can clearly say once more, as Joe Strummer rightfully sang, London’s calling…  


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