Briefing Papers Number 14, February 2012

Number 14, February 2012 briefing paper Linking Nutrition and Health: Progress and Opportunities by Rebecca J. Vander Meulen, M.P.H. and Noreen Mucha, M.P.A. Bread for the World Institute provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. The Institute educates its network, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad. UN Photo/Kibae Park Abstract Key Points • Good nutrition, particularly in early childhood, is critical to positive health outcomes and achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, particularly Goals 4, 5, and 6. Studies indicate that children who survive undernutrition during the 1,000 days between pregnancy and age two are more vulnerable to disease. Undernutrition undermines the effectiveness of life-saving medicines. • A new global consensus on high-impact, evidence-based, and cost-effective nutrition interventions has been supported by high-level U.S. and global political commitment to scale up nutrition. • The U.S. Global Health Initiative offers an important opportunity to increase and leverage health investments to support countryowned strategies to improve nutrition outcomes. Scaling up nutrition interventions through health programs can multiply the impact of investments in priority areas such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, water, sanitation, and hygiene. Rebecca Vander Meulen is director of community development, Diocese of Niassa, Mozambique. Noreen Mucha is a nutrition consultant with Bread for the World Insititute. In the last few years, there has been an unprecedented global effort to scale up maternal and child nutrition. The effort is prompted by increasing recognition of the devastating and largely irreversible impact of undernutrition on children in the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age two—and by a growing consensus on a set of evidence-based, cost-effective nutrition interventions. The United States has been a leader in the global effort and has made maternal and child nutrition improvements a primary objective of its Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives. Nutrition has been an issue neglected for far too long, so the recent attention to maternal and child nutrition creates a unique opportunity to make progress. Scaling up and making meaningful, measurable progress against malnutrition will require both additional resources and new ways of working. It will mean supporting national nutrition strategies that are country-owned and -driven, ensuring coordination across sectors to improve nutrition outcomes, and investing in human and institutional capacity to scale up at the global and country levels. Leveraging linkages among nutrition, health, and agriculture sectors can significantly increase the benefits of nutrition investments.