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WHO launches new online tool to help combat malnutrition

By Stephen Daniells , 10-Aug-2011

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a web-powered initiative to clarify guidance on life-saving nutrition interventions, and assist governments and healthcare providers to combat malnutrition.

Launched today, and coinciding with the start of a three-day nutrition meeting in Sri Lanka, the WHO e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA ) aims to help governments fight malnutrition by prioritizing and presenting the latest advice on tackling the three main forms of malnutrition: under-nutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and overweight and obesity.

“Several billion people are affected by one or more types of malnutrition,” said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO assistant director-general of non-communicable diseases and mental health. “Countries need access to the science and evidence-informed guidance to reduce the needless death and suffering associated with malnutrition. eLENA can greatly improve how countries cope with the terrible health threats posed by malnutrition.”

Forms of malnutrition

Childhood underweight, micronutrient deficiencies (iron, vitamin A and zinc) and poor breastfeeding combined are reported to be responsible for7 percent of deaths (or 3.9 million lives lost) and 10 percent of the global disease burden.

The main micronutrient deficiencies include iodine, iron, vitamin A, and zinc.

“To create eLENA, we have sifted through thousands of pages of scientific evidence and advice to prioritize, justify and better present the kinds of nutrition actions needed to prevent people succumbing to the many forms of malnutrition,” said Dr Francesco Branca, WHO director of nutrition for health and development.

The project is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Canada-based Micronutrient Initiative, and the Government of Luxembourg.

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