30 December 2014

6 New Year's Resolutions for Nutrition Policymakers

2015 could be a momentous year for nutrition or it could be a massive missed opportunity. 

Nutrition policymakers can make the difference.  Here's what I think they need to focus on in 2015. 

1.  Get nutrition more firmly entrenched in the Sustainable Development Goals

There are a number of recommendations on which indicators and targets to fight for.  All of them recommend inclusion of the 6 WHA indicators and usually the inclusion of a diet diversity indicator.  Come together, policymakers, engage with those who are at the centre of the SDG politicking and  convince them that without good nutrition, lives and livelihoods are built on quicksand. 

2.   Fund a data revolution in nutrition

Don't just talk about it, fund it.  The annual data bill for the MDGs (for all MDG countries) was $1 billion.  Small change, but vital to drive and monitor big changes.  Countries and UN agencies cannot do this on the cheap.  Invest in good data if you want change. 

3.   Convince economics colleagues that investing in nutrition is investing in growth

You have estimates that are summarised in the Global Nutrition Report--use them.  The benefit cost ratios are credible.  They are competitive with other investments.  They can be vote winners, just ask the Peruvian Government. 

4.   Work with sectoral counterparts to find win-win outcomes

Can an investment in nutrition sensitive agriculture be good for agriculture?  Yes!  For example, it can help Ministries of Agriculture show they are affecting all people's lives--not just farmers.  Ministries of Agriculture will need to reinvent themselves over the next 10 years, from departments that worry about farm output to departments that worry about the effect of farm output on human wellbeing.  A focus on nutrition can help jumpstart this. 

5.  Find ways to engage with major development debates in 2015

In addition to the SDGs, there will be major Climate and Finance negotiated outcomes in 2015.  For example, on climate, a focus on the first 1000 days of nutrition outcomes can help stress the damage done by the increased volatility in food prices caused by climate.  For innovative finance, can a focus on nutrition stimulate new thinking about cross-sectoral funding mechanisms?

6.  Model accountability

If you want people to take nutrition more seriously then you need to show others that you take it seriously.  This means identifying nutrition in your budgets, tracking nutrition spending, and analysing it.  This also means making your national data systems more interoperable with UN data systems.   

And for all of us who are not nutrition policymakers?  Let's support them (and occasionally nag them) in their pursuit of this kind of agenda.   

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