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Together for Nutrition

Posted: 28 May 2015
Transform Nutrition final

(Originally posted in December 2014)

India is making progress against undernutrition, as seen in the 2014 Global Hunger Index recently released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Yet one-third of Indian women and children under five remain underweight. Micronutrient deficiencies are common, and not just among the poor. To combat these grim statistics, and ensure that poor nutrition does not hold back human and economic development, India’s central and state governments must coordinate and accelerate efforts to tackle the causes of malnutrition and hunger.

Transform Nutrition feature 1

Photo: Prasanth Vishwanathan/Save the Children

Actions to strengthen and grow the economy, to leverage agriculture for better nutrition, to improve services in health, nutrition and sanitation, and to empower India’s women are essential to improving nutrition. It is with a sense of urgency and recognition of these multiple factors that more than 200 researchers, government officials, funders and NGO’s met in New Delhi in October at the Together for Nutrition 2014 conference. The goal was to learn how to improve nutrition in India by coordinating to deliver nutrition impact by working across sectors such as health, agriculture, sanitation, and women and child development.

The 2-day conference, jointly hosted by Transform Nutrition and POSHAN (Partnerships and Opportunities to Strengthen and Harmonize Actions for Nutrition in India), was an important platform for learning and facilitating discussion around this challenging task.

“India has clearly made progress towards improving nutrition, but the road ahead is still long,” said Purnima Menon, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI and co-director of POSHAN. “The evidence – from within India and from other countries - tells us that gains in maternal and child nutrition come from actions in several sectors, and that leadership must also come from all levels.. Our goal from this conference was to learn more about how to trigger leadership and action for nutrition at state, district, block and community level, and to learn about how different sectors are working together.”

Conference participants explored how decisions and actions in different sectors can influence nutrition, and how to plan, implement, and assess effective cross-sectoral actions. The conference featured Indian and international speakers, including Srinath Reddy from the Public Health Foundation of India, government officials from Odisha and Maharashtra, and several speakers from IFPRI. Shelly Sundberg from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation blogged with her reflections from day one of the conference.

“India is home to a third of the world’s stunted children. There is a significant opportunity for us to help our children reach their full potential not only through direct feeding programs but also through improved access to toilets and empowerment of their mothers,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, Vice-President for Research and Policy at the Public Health Foundation of India, the Transform Nutrition lead partner in India. “This is why looking at experiences and evidence that cuts across sectors is key."

Sessions at the conference highlighted research and program experiences with moving the nutrition agenda forward through convergence, collaboration, and cooperation at the state, district, block, and community levels. Evidence and experiences was be shared from states as diverse as Bihar, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and others.

“India is unusual in that even the delivery of nutrition-specific interventions requires two ministries – the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Ministry of Women & Child Development – to work together,” said Stuart Gillespie, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI and CEO of Transform Nutrition. “In showcasing examples of how to support such intersectoral convergence effectively from across India, this conference broke new ground.” Read Stuart’s blog ‘Why we need to work together for nutrition”.

Recommended reading from the author...

Working multisectorally in nutrition: principles, practices, and case studies
J. Garrett (ed); M. Natalicchio (ed); L. Bassett / International Food Policy Research Institute 2011
A multi-sectoral approach is arguably the most effective way to reduce malnutrition, but there is little evidence about how to implement it. This volume is an initial venture into the in-depth research necessary to develop that eviden...
Addressing Malnutrition Multisectorally: What have we learned from recent international experience?
J. Levinson; Y. Balarajan; A. Marini / United Nations Children's Fund 2013
This publication is a compilation of three major case studies from Peru, Brazil and Bangladesh, but also a historical review of multisectoral nutrition activities in several other countries around the world.  The report offers co...
Implementation Notes
International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
The Partnerships and Opportunities to Strengthen and Harmonize Actions for Nutrition in India (POSHAN) programme has launched a new series of publications called Implementation Notes. These papers summarize experiences related t...
The Bhavishya Alliance: A Multisectoral Initiative to Address Undernutrition in Maharashtra
I. Bhagwat; S. Sandosham; V. Ramani / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
In 2006, a strategic, multistakeholder alliance among Hindustan Unilever, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Synergos Institute was conceived and formalized as the Bhavishya Alliance to address malnutrition in ...
Pustikar Diwas: Convergent Action to Reduce Child Undernutrition in Odisha
R.N. Parhi; J. Saxton / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
In 2009, the Department of Health & Family Welfare and the Integrated Child Development Services began Pustikar Diwas, which is a fixed-service delivery day on which medical personnel at primary health centers and community health...
Leveraging the Power of Women’s Groups and Financial Services to Improve Knowledge and Behaviors for Improved Child and Maternal Nutrition
S. Rao; B. Gray; M. Metcalfe; S. Dutta / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
Microfinance institutions (MFIs), self-help promoting institutions (SHPIs), and their self-help groups (SHGs) reach about 90 million poor women in India, bringing them together regularly to participate in financial activities that sup...
The Health Subcenter as an Effective Platform for Coordinated Capacity Building and Supportive Supervision of Frontline Workers
S. Babu; S. Srikantiah / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
Given the range of frontline staff and their complementary aims, the health subcenter represents an optimal geographical and demographic unit for health and nutrition programmes to target specific outcomes through nutrition-specific i...
Panchayat-Led Nutrition and Daycare Centres—The Fulwari Scheme of Chhattisgarh
S. Garg / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
Chhattisgarh has a statewide programme using community health workers called mitanins. The National Rural Health Mission organises the payment of small stipends to the mitanins through the panchayats and recognizes them as accredited ...
Toward Improved Nutrition: The Atal Bal Arogya Evam Poshan Mission
P. Das; M. Dwivedi; S. Sharma / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
Half of the children in Madhya Pradesh under age 5 are stunted and 35 percent are wasted. In an effort to address this situation, in late 2010, the Government of Madhya Pradesh launched the Atal Bal Aarogya Evam Poshan Mi...
Collaboration of Integrated Child Development Services with Self-Help Groups to Decentralize the Supply of Supplementary Feeding at Anganwadi Centers
S. Babu; N. Nidadavolu / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
The Integrated Child Development Services programme provides supplementary food to millions of women and young children in India for approximately 300 days a year at its anganwadi centers (AWCs). This Implementation Note ...
Writing About Nutrition in Indian Newspapers: Lessons Learned from the OneWorld POSHAN Media Fellowship
Rahul Kumar; Elisa Knebel / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
To try to raise the profile of nutrition in the Indian media, POSHAN and the OneWorld Foundation, India (OWFI) co-implemented the six-month OneWorld-POSHAN Fellowship on Maternal and Child Undernutrition.  Th...
A Multisectoral Initiative to Address Nutrition among Children in Remote, Conflict-Affected Zones of Odisha
N. Chakravarty; S. Bhattacharjee; A. Ahuja / International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
One of the challenges to address stunting in Odisha is the lack of trained frontline workers to assess and refer affected children to appropriate health services for care and treatment. To create a substantial dent in thi...