Dr. Stuart Gillespie on nutrition and the enabling environment

Dr. Gillespie works as a Senior Research Fellow for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and currently a visiting Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies. He is also the CEO of the Transform Nutrition Research Program Consortium – a six-partner consortium that seeks to transform thinking and action on “the neglected crisis of undernutrition” in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – and Research Director of the LANSA consortium (Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia), both of which are funded by DFID.

In this short video, Dr. Gillespie discusses with HEART and MQSUN a new paper ‘The politics of reducing malnutrition: building commitment and accelerating progress’ he has worked on with a team from IFPRI, the Institute of Development Studies and The Micronutrient Initiative. The paper was published on 6 June 2013 in the Lancet as part of a series of papers on Maternal and Child Nutrition. This nutrition series is a follow-up to The Lancet’s landmark 2008 series, which helped put nutrition on the global health and development agenda.

The paper focuses on nutrition and the enabling environment and examines the political economy of reducing malnutrition, an area which has been largely neglected up to now. It considers the features of an enabling environment that are needed to provide support for nutrition-relevant policies and programmes, and how political momentum for nutrition can be created and sustained. The paper is structured around the ways in which three domains (knowledge and evidence, politics and governance, and capacity and resources) are pivotal to create and sustain political momentum, and to translate momentum into results in high-burden countries.

An example is given on The Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), which was launched in 2013 and ranks governments on their political commitment to tackling hunger and undernutrition. The index was created to provide greater transparency and public accountability by measuring what governments achieve, and where they fail, in addressing hunger and undernutrition.

Dr. Gillespie comments on the increased interest in nutrition in recent years with the political landscape shifting significantly. Initiatives such as Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) have helped to drive forward thinking on nutrition. SUN is founded on the principle that all people have a right to food and good nutrition. It unites people — from governments, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers — in a collective effort to improve nutrition.

Other initiatives such as Maximising the Quality of Scaling Up Nutrition Programme (MQSUN) have also contributed to interest in nutrition. Led by PATH, MQSUN is a consortium of leading organisations working on nutrition. The project aims to provide DFID with technical services to improve the quality of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes. Knowledge products and documents produced by MQSUN are hosted on the HEART website.

In 2012 HEART contributed to DFID’s nutrition paper titled, ‘An update of The neglected Crisis of Undernutrition: Evidence for Action’. This paper reviews new research on the causes, consequences and potential actions to reduce maternal and child undernutrition undertaken since its original publication in 2009. The paper will help the UK develop more effective nutrition programmes to reach 20 million pregnant women and children under the age of five in developing countries.

A second video was recorded by Dr. Gillespie for IFPRI in which he gives more detail on building commitment and capacity for nutrition. He argues that policy makers now have the information to end hunger and undernutrition. With 3.1 million children dying from malnutrition every year, it is vital that this information is used to make a lasting change.