Social investment vital in war against malnutrition: Report

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

A food security framework was first laid down by UNICEF in 1990, focusing on the causes of malnutrition and death in children and women. ©iStock
A food security framework was first laid down by UNICEF in 1990, focusing on the causes of malnutrition and death in children and women. ©iStock

Related tags: Nutrition

Macro-investments in health, education and access to water are key to reducing malnutrition, a report has found.

Such investments - greatest during periods of GDP growth in many countries - had an ‘indirect impact’ in reducing malnutrition.

Dr Bárbara Soriano and Dr Alberto Garrido from the Technical University of Madrid in Spain used data from data from 1991–2012 to determine whether higher economic growth accelerated reductions in undernutrition in 27 low-income and middle-income countries. Four geographical regions were selected — South Asia (4 countries), East Asia (5), Latin America (11) and sub-Saharan Africa (7).

Improved access to drinking water had the greatest malnutrition impact, more than literacy and public health improvements, but change came at differing rates even when GDP improvement was similar among nations.

“These results conclude that around two years of annual revenue growth are necessary to achieve improvements in undernourishment,” ​the paper noted. “Over time economic growth’s impact on reducing undernourishment is higher, thus three to eight years growth is optimal when compared to the impact of economic growth in the short term.”

The researchers were quick to point out that the study omitted many direct interventions that have proved essential for reducing undernourishment, such as micronutrient supplementation, food fortification or diet supplementation for pregnant women.

Economy and undernutrition

food security nutrition generations children aid iStock.com paulaphoto
While hunger has fallen by 40% since 1990, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated there are close to 1bn people suffering from malnutrition or undernutrition. ©iStock/borgogniels

Little research has been carried out in regards to links between economic growth and undernutrition reduction.

One study​ found that a number of developing countries experiencing economic growth have seen their nutritional status deteriorate. 

One analysis​ of the impact of national income on child malnutrition found that growth and specific nutrition programs were paramount in halving the levels of child malnutrition. 

A similar study​ looking at nutrient demand functions suggested income was overrated as a determinant of adequate nutrition.

Source: Food Policy

Published online ahead of print, doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.07.004

“How important is economic growth for reducing undernourishment in developing countries?”

Authors: Bárbara Soriano, Alberto Garrido

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