12 September 2010

The 7 Habits of Enabling Environments for Nutrition

I recently gave a presentation in Delhi at the Conference on "Nutrition: Reaching the Hard Core" organized by the Britannia Nutrition Foundation.

For me, there are 3 key puzzles on how to overcome malnutrition: (a) how to raise the quality and expand the coverage of direct nutrition interventions such as breastfeeding promotion, (b) how to make investments in various related sectors (such as agriculture) more pro-nutrition, and (c) how to create an environment where it is hard for anyone to neglect malnutrition.

My presentation was on the third area and was entitled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Enabling Environments for Nutrition”. I focused on:

  1. new surveillance techniques using mobile technologies to allow government and civil society to react in real time to the changing nutrition situation, 
  2. the importance of creative campaigns to reset norms around what are acceptable rates of malnutrition reduction, 
  3. the need to support and expand the cadre of nutrition champions, 
  4. the need to learn from success (and failure) within India (taking advantage of the federal set up) and internationally, 
  5. the potential of a new class of “commitment indices” which monitor the commitments of governments, civil society and businesses, 
  6. the insights to be gained from adopting the new generation of economic growth diagnostics for nutrition to help prioritise and sequence the laundry list of potential nutrition actions for any given context, and 
  7. the value added of customer feedback—asking intended beneficiaries to score existing services and suggest what to do differently. I feel that too little attention has been given to these issues.
Malnutrition is insidious—it sucks the life out of kids before clinical signs show. Malnutrition requires action on many fronts and hence it requires coordination and leveraging. Malnutrition requires scaling up of quality. All of these features—invisibility, scaling, coordination, leveraging—demand leadership. Sometimes leadership just emerges. But with so many lives being ended or wrecked by malnutrition, we can’t afford to wait.

We need to make sure nutrition is not easily neglected. And that means putting pressure on leaders throughout society to focus on malnutrition. These 7 habits could play a big role in doing that.


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