Improving Nutrition to Nourish the SDGs: 2017 Global Nutrition Report

Image courtesy: Global Nutrition Report

Improving nutrition will be a catalyst for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), affirms the 2017 Global Nutrition Report, launched on November 4th. Providing an independent and annual review, this Report reveals that the world faces a grave nutrition situation. Two billion people lack key micronutrients (like iron and vitamin A), 155 million children are stunted (low height-for-age), 52 million children are wasted (low weight-for-height) and 88% of the countries face a serious burden of either two or three forms of malnutrition.

The progress on global nutrition targets is slow, even moving backwards in some cases. However, tackling underlying causes of malnutrition through the SDGs will help to end malnutrition, suggests the 2017 Global Nutrition Report. It emphasizes the significance of improving nutrition, which can have a powerful multiplier effect across the SDGs.

Presenting nutritional profiles for 193 countries, 6 regions and 22 sub-regions, this Report unveils a transformative vision of integrating nutrition through the SDGs to address multiple goals universally. The India nutrition profile shows that the country contributes a third of the global burden of undernutrition and has a substantial burden of non-communicable diseases. This reinforces findings from national surveys in India, also showcased in POSHAN’s report on Trends in Nutrition Outcomes, Determinants, and Interventions in India (2006–2016).

Although India has made considerable progress on several maternal and child nutrition outcomes in the last decade, especially in the areas of stunting among children below five years, exclusive breastfeeding, and the proportion of children with low birth weight, not all nutrition outcomes have improved. Wasting and anemia still remain major public health challenges in India, and the burden of non-communicable diseases is high. For making any impact in the global nutrition status, it is vital to invest in reducing all forms of malnutrition in India, given its total population. It is also important to dive deep and understand how these forms of malnutrition play out across India.

To leave no one behind, it is also essential to fill the data gaps and change the way data is analyzed and used, emphasizes the 2017 Global Nutrition Report. It underscores the need for more detailed and disaggregated data for all forms of malnutrition, as nutrition levels can vary considerably, even within households.  This is particularly of relevance in a country like India, where the population of 1.2 billion lives in widely varying contexts – geographic, social, economic, agro-ecological, dietary and cultural.

POSHAN’s work has highlighted that although all the states operate under a similar national policy and programmatic environment, there is significant variation in the status of nutrition, major determinants and the coverage of health and nutrition interventions, by state and even by district. The need for disaggregated data, therefore, is even more pertinent to inform decision making at the policy-level.

In conjunction with the launch of the Global Nutrition Report, we take a local perspective, and are pleased to launch a set of  interactive district-wise maps to take stock of how India’s districts stand on the six global nutrition targets adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2012. POSHAN’s work on district-focused data summaries and these interactive maps highlight how varied the patterns of malnutrition are across India. This re-affirms the need for a locally focused, data-driven approach to prioritizing action for nutrition.

The key messages of the 2017 Global Nutrition Report for countries, decision-makers, planners, implementers, and researchers are:

  • Build for nutrition while harnessing nutrition’s power across the SDGs;
  • Ensure that the problems of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases are addressed alongside stunting, wasting, anemia and other micronutrient deficiencies;
  • Be bolder in committing to nutrition;
  • Mind the data gaps; and
  • Scale-up investments.

These key messages resonate deeply with the work that the POSHAN team does on analyzing data and supporting India’s nutrition community in making use of data for effective decisions.

Written by Pratima Mathews, IFPRI.