Evidence Generation and Policy
At Nutrition International, we have been working for more than 20 years to prevent and alleviate micronutrient malnutrition – or hidden hunger – among the world’s most vulnerable citizens in low to middle income countries, especially women and children.
We do this by delivering essential vitamins and minerals to those who need them, and by working with governments and other leaders to prioritize cost-effective solutions for hidden hunger.
Our work is having a measurable impact in improving child health globally, and that is largely because it is guided by policies that are informed by good science and best practices in programming. This is the focus of Nutrition International’s Evidence Generation and Policy efforts. We contribute to the global evidence base, along with our partners, to invest resources where they will have the most impact. We help translate evidence into strong policies that provide high-quality micronutrient products and programs to serve the world’s most vulnerable people.
Research and Evaluation
Our Research and Evaluation Unit ensures all of our efforts in addressing micronutrient malnutrition are informed by the best available evidence. Our mission is to inform the development of policies and the implementation of programs that use micronutrient interventions for improving women and children’s health, by being leaders and innovators in surveillance, research and evaluation.
We do this in three ways:
1. Nutrition Information Systems
To solve a problem like hidden hunger, you first need to understand its scope, distribution and severity. This means establishing and overseeing ways to explore the factors that create the problem, such as food security, the social context, the environment and population groups that are more affected.
From that understanding, we promote interventions, measure their effectiveness, and identify gaps in how these interventions are applied.
The Research and Evaluation Unit at Nutrition International works with partners to conduct micronutrient and food consumption surveys, and help draw other surveys together by supporting the maintenance of global databases and to paint a clear picture of the micronutrient status in target populations. These surveys ask questions such as:
- What is the current magnitude and distribution of selected vitamin and mineral deficiencies?
- What are the trends and patterns over time? Has the prevalence of disease changed?
- What are the problems in the diet?
- What is the coverage of interventions, such as the proportion of target populations who have received nutrient supplements or are consuming fortified foods?
- Has coverage changed over time?
- Are there groups in the population where the prevalence of vitamin and mineral nutrient deficiencies remains high or where the coverage of interventions is inadequate?
Because the causes of vitamin and mineral deficiencies are multiple and interconnected with diet and food security, as well as other potential health problems – such as infections and inadequate access to health care – there are many surveillance systems from different sources. However, few include micronutrients or nutrition in general. Nutrition International offers technical support to include nutrition in existing surveillance systems and is developing a framework for assessing and improving performance.
2. Implementation Research and Evaluation
Surveillance is key to trigger new policy and program development, but also to determine whether existing policies and programs are hitting their targets in reducing micronutrient malnutrition.
Policies and micronutrient interventions developed at one point in time may be influenced by a number of factors that can change (such as political situations and availability of commodities), therefore ongoing research into the effectiveness of programs is essential to ensuring the right impact.
Nutrition International conducts several projects as part of the continuum of implementation research to improve the reach and equity in access to micronutrient interventions. such as:
- the consumption of iron and folic acid supplements by pregnant women as part of antenatal care;
- the use of zinc and oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoea in children;
- the use of multiple micronutrient powders to improve infant and young child feeding practices; and
- packages to improve maternal and neonatal nutrition and health.
The value Nutrition International adds by assessing these existing programs and testing innovative approaches to program delivery is in generating the compelling evidence required to engage ongoing funding and political support for micronutrient interventions, both from within the country and from partners and donors around the globe.
Micronutrient Nutrition Survey
The Micronutrient Survey Toolkit was developed by CDC’s International Micronutrient Malnutrition Prevention and Control Program (IMMPaCt) to provide epidemiological support to countries to assess and monitor the elimination of micronutrient malnutrition. Nutrition International was pleased to provide technical advice for some of the components. This toolkit provides a set of resources collected from many sources, including public health specialists from CDC and other agencies.
Go to the Micronutrient Survey Toolkit to learn more.
3. Knowledge Translation
Billions of people around the world suffer from micronutrient malnutrition and it is an underlying cause of 45 per cents of all deaths among children under five. We know that even when children survive malnutrition, they are left physically and intellectually weakened and prone to disease or chronic illness.
Thankfully, there is a large and dedicated community of agencies, government bodies and civil society organizations working together to solve these problems.
Nutrition International plays a leading role in developing and fostering an environment in which this community shares their knowledge, toward the goal of reducing duplication of efforts, adopting best practices, building capacity and advocating for increased interventions.
Some of the ways Nutrition International draws the best evidence together is by hosting international advocacy and scientific meetings, drawing together all parties with a vested interest in ending micronutrient malnutrition. These meetings take place to discuss the evidence and make decisions at community and regional.
For example, Nutrition International invests in the Micronutrient Forum. Among the activities of the Micronutrient Forum is the biennial global meeting that brings together research, policy, clinical, and program experts from across sectors, including in nutrition, agriculture, health, social protection and finance. These experts share new evidence and examine evidence gaps in existing interventions to inform ongoing research, intervention needs, program and policy priorities.
As part of our activities in knowledge transfer, we develop peer-reviewed publications, policy briefs, Q&A briefs, case studies and training materials to support the global nutrition community and other networks and interests of those who stand alongside us in ending micronutrient malnutrition.
Nutrition International is a board member of the Iodine Global Network and the Food Fortification Initiative, which are international networks that advocate for and provide technical assistance to countries interested in implementing of salt iodization or food fortification programs.
Some of the other groups in which Nutrition International is actively involved include:
- Global Nutrition Cluster
- Home Fortification Technical Advisory Group (HFTAG)
- American Society for Nutrition
- American Society for Nutrition Global Nutrition Research Interest Group
- Global Alliance for Vitamin A (GAVA)
- United Nations Essential Commodities Demand Generation Working Group
- Cochrane Collaboration