Abstract Digest on Maternal and Child Nutrition Research – Issue 18

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This issue of Abstract Digest features several papers from a UNICEF supported special supplement of Maternal and Child Nutrition on First Foods and papers from a South Asia Infant Feeding Research Network (SAIFRN) supported special supplement on the policy landscape for infant and young child feeding (IYCF) in South Asia. In addition, there are several other interesting articles highlighting the need for equity-driven approaches to address malnutrition, factors associated with optimal child growth, and feasibility of engaging women’s collectives in delivering nutrition messages. Here are some more highlights:

• In an overview article to the special supplement on First Foods, France Bégin and Víctor M. Aguayo summarize the rationale on why improving complementary foods and feeding for infants and young children matter and what it takes to improve them. This supplement builds on the papers presented at the First Foods Global Meeting and those commissioned as a follow on to it.

• Sinha and colleagues (2017) analyzed data from a community-based randomized controlled trial and concluded that low-birthweight (LBW) infants born to short-stature mothers are at additional risk of stunting and poor growth velocity.

• Two studies highlight the need for equity-driven approaches to address malnutrition. Using data from 146 surveys from 39 low- and lower-middle income countries, Vollmer and colleagues (2017) highlight that while the overall prevalence of Composite Index of Anthropometric Failure (CIAF) is slowly decreasing, the socioeconomic inequities in childhood undernutrition persist, underlying the need for equity-driven approaches to address malnutrition. Krishna and colleagues (2017) demonstrate that a disproportionate burden of stunting is experienced by the most disadvantaged children in four South Asian countries.

• To explain the remarkable decline in child undernutrition in Maharashtra between 2006 and 2012, Nisbett and Barnett (2017) conducted stakeholder interviews and focus group discussions. The authors find issue framing and evidence, governance structures (the State’s ‘Nutrition Mission’), leadership and a focus on system-wide capacity along with a focus of resources on pockets of deprivation in high burden areas to have created an enabling environment for achieving improvements in stunting.

• A study by Nandi and colleagues (2017) demonstrates small benefits of longer breastfeeding duration on education outcomes particularly in boys in India.

• Singh and colleagues (2017) find that participation in comprehensive Integrated Nutrition and Health Program in two districts of Uttar Pradesh, improved breastfeeding but not complementary feeding or the nutritional status.

• In the introductory article to the special supplement on policy landscape for IYCF in South Asia, Purnima Menon and Anne-Marie Thow note the critical need to recognize the diversity and complexity of the actor environment in IYCF policy space, and call on the research community to continue to invest in policy process research alongside more traditional research on testing and implementing interventions to improve IYCF.

• To improve compliance to adolescent anemia control program in tribal communities of India, a government-led positive deviance (PD) approach was used to identify local solutions and provided an opportunity to adapt the program according to the needs of the affected communities (Sethi et al. 2017).

• Results of a study on priority interventions to improve maternal and child diets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (Masters et al. 2017) demonstrate that a participatory process can help local experts identify their own priorities for future investments, and can generate an actionable set of program priorities for policy makers’ considerations. This is a first step in a novel process of rigorous, transparent, and independent priority setting to improve diets among those at the greatest risk of undernutrition.

• In a randomized, double-blind, controlled food-fortification trial, Wenger and colleagues (2017) find that women who consumed double-fortified salt had measurable and significant improvements in the perceptual, attentional, and mnemonic performance.

• In a cluster-randomised controlled trial, Nair and colleagues (2017) studied the effect of participatory women's groups and counselling through home visits on children's linear growth in rural eastern India. The authors report that the introduction of a new cadre of community-based workers did not significantly increase children's length, but it did improve infant survival rate, dietary diversity, and handwashing.

• In a study assessing community collectives’ awareness, institutional and program capacity to deliver women’s nutrition services, women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and their federations emerged as the most promising collectives to engage in nutrition promotion and service delivery (Sethi et al. 2017).

Enjoy reading!