Fighting the BATTLE: Household nutrition security

Behavior change research can help alleviate problems of malnutrition in Asia.

The GCARD2 breakout sessions have already begun to make a mark as experts and practitioners alike shared their experiences, success and failures relating to household nutrition security. The discussion was one of the Parallel sessions under the topic: Improving our future visions.

Of particular interest was a report by Ms. E. Hillenbrand of Helen Keller International. A project carried out in both Cambodia and Bangladesh which highlights motivating success stories in achieving household nutrition security via culture based approaches for changes in behavior.

Helen Keller International “combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health and nutrition.” Some of the organization’s priorities in Asia include the creation of a supportive environment to prevent and treat malnutrition; to develop replicable and scalable evidence based models; and to build the evidence- base on agriculture-based approaches to nutrition. Government ministries, health workers, planning committees are important partners in setting up community-based agriculture as a modem for increased production and consumption of micro-nutrient rich foods – this is the aim of HKI’s homestead garden model!

Increased production alone does not change diet behaviors or nutrition outcomes.  A Behavior Change Communication (BBC) strategy is essential to help families  achieve household nutrition security in these areas. HKI presented an example of the process of developing a gender-transformative BCC strategy. Agriculturists and nutritionists all worked together to conduct a gender/livelihood analysis leading to the creation of an ag-nutrition gender communications strategy.

The main behavior which was focused upon was exclusive breastfeeding. The analysis found that the act of returning to the production field three months after birth, prevented women from exclusively breastfeeding their children. This of course contributes to nutritional issues in children. However with the findings of the participatory analysis, a BBC strategy was developed that engaged the whole family and community structures–including agriculture committees and church groups—to share women’s workload, and provide support to enable women to continue breastfeeding during the critical six months.

By this example it is clear that an essential approach to achieve nutrition security lies in a multi-sectoral approach of collaboration with all stakeholders involved in a particular situation, and transforming the underlying gender issues that inhibit optimal nutrition behavior change.

Blogpost by Keron Bascombe, one of the GCARD2 social reporters.


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