New members of the Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group announced

The Stakeholder Group for the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) is delighted to announce the newly appointed members of the GNR’s Independent Expert Group (IEG). The IEG's members were selected to bring the right mix of expertise and fresh perspectives to the GNR in 2018 and beyond. The IEG as a whole represents individual members’ expertise in research, programming, data and advocacy for all forms of malnutrition.

Corinna Hawkes, Jessica Fanzo and Emorn Udomkesmalee continue to serve as Co-Chairs of the group and are joined by:

Anushree Shiroor, Senior Policy Advocacy Officer (Nutrition) at RESULTS UK

Ashkan Afshin, Assistant Professor (Global Health) at University of Washington

Camila Corvalán, Assistant Professor, Obesity and chronic diseases at the Instituto de Nutrición y Tecnología de los Alimentos department of the University of Chile

Carmel Dolan, Technical Director at the Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN)

Chika Hayashi, Senior Advisor, Monitoring and Statistics at UNICEF

Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Dominic Schofield, President, GAIN Canada and Senior Technical Advisor of Policy and Programs at GAIN

Jane Battersby, Senior Researcher at the University of Cape Town

John McArthur, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution and Senior Advisor, UN Foundation

Jorge Fonseca, Programme Adviser, at the Food and Agriculture Organization

Kevin Chen, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute

Laurence Grummer-Strawn, Technical Officer at the World Health Organization

Lorena Allemendi, Director of Politics of Nutrition at Fundación Interamericana del Corazón Argentina

Mariachiara Di Cesare, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at Middlesex University London

Obey Assery, Director of Coordination of Government Business at the Government of Tanzania

Phillip Baker, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University, Australia

Zulfiqar Bhutta, Co-Director, Director of Research at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Aga Khan University

The IEG is responsible for the content, data and analysis of the report, is accountable for the quality and independence of its conclusions, and is answerable to the Stakeholder Group.

Find out more about the IEG and its members.

Middle-income countries – the crucial piece in the malnutrition puzzle

By Anushree Shiroor

Malnutrition seldom receives the same attention as many other health issues, despite strong linkages. Recent media coverage highlighting the current rate of progress as grossly insufficient for many African countries to achieve global targets on maternal, infant, and young child nutrition evoked a mixed reaction – relief at malnutrition beginning to get its due attention, but also deep concern for the future of these countries and their people. In reality, business as usual will cause not just many African nations, but the world as a whole, to fall short of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2), as the Global Nutrition Report 2017 shows us.

Middle-income countries (MICs) are both part of the problem and part of the solution in ending malnutrition by 2030. Nutrition and health improvements in many MICs have not been commensurate with economic growth, demonstrated by MICs representing 70–80% of all forms of child malnutrition – both undernutrition, and overweight and obesity. On the other hand, MICs stand to gain huge returns from addressing such staggering rates of malnutrition – via enhanced human capital and productivity.

Addressing this problem requires a wide range of actions and actors, and needs to cut across many sectors, but country ownership is fundamental. Without overarching government leadership to guide more and better domestic resources and policy frameworks for nutrition, efforts in-country will be unlikely to go very far. Tracking national budgetary allocations to nutrition has been challenging. Where conducted, countries have been found to be spending too little on it, with rare exceptions like El Salvador from which lessons can be learnt.

At the same time, MICs are facing the serious and looming threat of donor transition. Worryingly, overall donor investments in basic nutrition have recently started to plateau. A change in donor support towards MICs, especially when based solely on a narrow and as we now know, largely inequitable economic marker of progress, can put massive pressure on countries that are trying to balance development and economic growth. More than one donor transitioning simultaneously in the same country can undermine progress already achieved, as well as that which could be achieved, for nutrition. For countries like Nigeria, where health financing multilaterals such as Gavi and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are in simultaneous transition, both health and nutrition outcomes stand to suffer.

Delivering on the ‘leave no one behind’ principle is essential to meaningfully reducing malnutrition in MICs. While the lack of timely and disaggregated data is a major limitation to designing appropriate policy and programming, where available, such data show us that there is a higher stunting prevalence in children born into poorer households, rural communities, or those whose mothers who have fewer years of schooling. Such disparities are widespread in countries like Vietnam, but also in countries like Peru which have managed impressive reductions in overall stunting. Addressing these inequities by placing disadvantaged groups at the core of all efforts is not just a moral imperative, but a smart one as it enables a snowballing of positive impact across the wider population.

It is unacceptable that the future of 89 MICs is being compromised by 122 million physically and intellectually stunted children, 47 million wasted children on the brink of death, and over 500 million anaemic women. As shown by success stories such as Peru’s halving of national stunting rates between 2005 and 2016, and a 12% reduction in stunting between 2005 and 2015 in the Indian state of Maharashtra, we can be confident that while challenging, malnutrition in MICs is not an unsolvable problem. However, with only 12 years to go to our 2030 goal, we cannot take another decade to get our act together.

Anushree Shiroor is the Senior Policy Advocacy Officer at RESULTS UK, an international development charity that ​works to secure greater political and public will for nutrition, among other issues, as a means of addressing extreme poverty. Her focus lies in mobilising improved and more accountable investments to address malnutrition among the most vulnerable groups in high-burden countries. She works closely with civil society coalitions, parliamentarians, and donors to influence the development of more impactful policies and programmes for nutrition. Anushree has on-the-ground experience of nutrition programme implementation, and research on maternal and child health and nutrition. She also sits on the steering group of the Civil Society Network for the Scaling Up Nutrition movement. She holds masters' degrees in nutrition, and global health, from the Universities of Delhi, and Oxford, respectively.

Photo: JP Davidson

Diversifying agriculture for healthy diets

By Andrew Jones

Transitions toward urban living, the freer flow of capital and culture, and new agricultural and processing technologies have transformed food systems around the world over the past half century. Perhaps more than anything, homogenisation has come to define this transformation. The composition of global food supplies has become more similar in recent decades, and just a handful of foods now account for most of the calories we consume. Uniform, high-input farms, the hallmark of modern intensive agriculture, have produced an abundance of food unimaginable at the start of the last century. Yet, a healthy diet remains out of reach or unrealised for billions worldwide.

Monotonous, staple-based diets are still the norm for poor households in low-income countries, while more diverse diets, high in calories and ultra-processed foods, and lacking in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, are on the rise in every corner of the globe, cross-cutting social and economic divisions. Indeed, unhealthy diets are the largest single risk factor for the global burden of disease. The extent to which simplified farming systems may be driving these unhealthy dietary patterns is not clear. However, there is reason to believe that more diverse farms can support healthy diets in several different ways.

First, diversified farms can improve the diversity, and thereby nutrient adequacy, of diets of smallholder farming households that raise crops for their own consumption. Across many settings, more diversified farms are associated with more varied family diets. The size of this relationship is small, and some evidence suggests that adding new crop species to farms that are already highly diverse will not improve diets. Yet, among farms with just one or two crops, the situation for many poor subsistence farming families, a marginal increase in crop diversity can yield a proportionally larger return to diet diversity. It is also likely that policies or programs that intervene to diversify farms with the explicit goal of improving diets, would see larger positive impacts on diets, especially if combined with nutrition behavior change activities.

Second, more diverse farms can generate income for farming families that can be used to purchase more diverse foods. Certainly, investing in a small number of cash crops can increase incomes from agriculture, and there are risks that diversification could sacrifice gains from specialisation. Yet, crop diversification need not mean lost income. In practice, risk-averse smallholders often maintain subsistence production while diversifying into commercial crops. In this way, diversification can afford smallholders access to new markets for their production, additional sources of income, and indirect routes to improving diets through increased purchasing power. Indeed, more highly diversified farms tend to have higher incomes from agriculture, and the benefits of farm diversification for diet diversity are consistent across more and less market-oriented farms.

Finally, more diverse farms can contribute to more diverse consumer food markets. Even subsistence farmers in most settings purchase most of their food. Therefore, diversifying the small- to medium-sized farms that locally supply markets in low-income countries is essential for expanding access to healthy, diverse foods. Increasing production of fruits, vegetables and legumes is especially important given that the supply of these crops in nearly all world regions is not sufficient to meet recommended intakes. Yet diversifying agricultural production alone will not guarantee greater consumption of diverse foods. Post-production processing, and how foods are substituted and marketed relative to one another strongly shape the nutritional quality of foods, as well as food prices and consumer preferences. Hence, complementary policies are needed to ensure that the potential nutritional benefits of agricultural diversification persist throughout supply chains.

To be certain, diversifying farms is just one part of a larger effort that is needed to promote healthy diets through changes to food systems. Yet it is a vital one, and underpins the need to re-envision farms as agroecosystems, and cultivate an agriculture that sustainably supports multiple ecosystem services.

Andrew Jones is a public health nutritionist interested in understanding how food systems impact the diets and nutritional status of vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries. Andrew is currently the John G. Searle Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences in the School of Public Health and Research Assistant Professor in the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan. He has worked as a consultant for several institutions, including the World Bank, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and UNICEF.

Photo: ILO

Development Initiatives named new host of the Global Nutrition Report

The Global Nutrition Report Stakeholder Group is delighted to announce that Development Initiatives (DI) has been selected as the host of the Global Nutrition Report (GNR).

Corinna Hawkes, co-chair of the GNR said, “DI’s expertise in development data and its commitment to transparency and accountability will be a real asset to the GNR as we seek to increase its value as a tool for those committed to tackling malnutrition. DI’s work on the 2017 report highlighted their dedication to making it a success and we are looking forward to seeing its reach continue to grow in 2018 and beyond.”

Harpinder Collacott, Executive Director at Development Initiatives said “We know that the Sustainable Development Goals will not succeed without ending malnutrition – making it a key priority in global development. The GNR is therefore a vital resource providing independent high-quality evidence and practical recommendations on combating malnutrition globally. DI has played a supportive role with the GNR since its inception, and we are delighted to host the report for the next three years and build on the success it has had since first publication in 2014.”

Notes to editors

Contact

Anna Hope, Head of Communications at Development Initiatives
E: Anna.Hope@devinit.org
T: +44 (0) 1179 272 505

About the Global Nutrition Report

The Global Nutrition Report is an independently produced annual stock-take of the state of the world’s nutrition. The report tracks global nutrition targets on maternal, infant and young child nutrition and on diet-related non-communicable diseases adopted by member states of the World Health Organization as well as governments’ delivery against their commitments. It aims to make it easier for governments and other stakeholders to make – and deliver on – high-impact commitments to end malnutrition in all its forms.

Previous reports can be viewed at www.globalnutritionreport.org

About Development Initiatives

Development Initiatives (DI) is an independent international development organisation that focuses on the role of data in driving poverty eradication and sustainable development. Our mission is to ensure that decisions about the allocation of finance and resources result in an end to poverty, increase the resilience of the world’s most vulnerable people, and ensure no one is left behind. We work to make sure these decisions are underpinned by good quality, transparent data and evidence on poverty and resources, and lead to increased accountability and sustainable long-term outcomes.

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