Lawrence Haddad on reducing undernutrition and the Nutrition Topic Guide

In this video Lawrence Haddad, Director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), introduces the HEART Nutrition Topic Guide. The guide has been created in collaboration with MQSUN  to inform policymakers and practitioners working in the nutrition sector on the latest key evidence.

As Lawrence explains, undernutrition causes 3.1 million preventable maternal and child deaths every year. In addition to the higher risk of death, undernutrition weakens the immune system, stunts physical growth and cognitive development and can have a lifelong and intergenerational effect on educational attainment and economic potential for individuals, families and whole nations. Lawrence highlights therefore why investment in undernutrition reduction is not only beneficial from a health perspective, but also a sound economic investment.

The guide covers nutrition specific interventions such as breastfeeding, micronutrient supplementation and infant and child feeding practices. Many of these interventions have a strong evidence base, but coverage of programmes remains low and so the focus is now on how to deliver them at scale.

The topic guide then goes through nutrition sensitive interventions which are targeted at addressing the underlying causes of undernutrition, such as care practices, hygiene and sanitation and agriculture. As Lawrence states, nutrition sensitive interventions can only address between a fifth and a third of the burden of undernutrition and so investment in nutrition sensitive interventions is essential, however the evidence base for these interventions has some gaps.

The final section of the guide is what is termed the ‘enabling environment’. This refers to the high level political commitment and leadership which create an environment where it is easier to scale up direct and implement nutrition specific interventions.

Lawrence Haddad also recently spoke at the launch of Global Hunger Index. He explains the importance of political commitment in addressing hunger and undernutrition. The podcast is available to listen to here.


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Ruel, M. and Alderman, H. (2013) Nutrition-sensitive interventions and programmes: how can they help to accelerate progress in improving maternal and child nutrition? Lancet; 382: 536–51

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