As the international development community looks to the future, where should it focus its knowledge-research efforts against malnutrition? More and better evaluations of nutrition programs are critically needed. Sound evaluations are needed not just of programs that are clear successes but of those that are not—for it is as important to know why programs fail as it is to know why they succeed. And the lessons of both success and failure need to be effectively disseminated.
Better information on the nutritional situation is also needed—so that practitioners can target programs where they are most needed, know the baseline before launching a program, and closely monitor progress. More information is also needed on national spending for nutrition. This will support realistic estimates of what it costs to address malnutrition effectively.
Applied research is needed to answer unsolved technical and operational questions. We need to know more about how to improve the nutrition of adolescent girls and women, how to put life cycle approaches into operation, and how to set up systems for rapid operational learning and consensus building. We need to know more about how to scale up effective projects. Operational research is urgently needed on how best to tackle iron deficiency and anemia in vulnerable groups, and on how to apply food-based approaches to reduce malnutrition.
Efforts in all these areas will provide valuable input for sound programs. Combined with adequate human and financial resources and, most important, strong political commitment, they can lead to the sought-after result: accelerated improvement in nutrition.
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