Earlier this week, public health practitioners, scientists, economists, and policymakers gathered at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., to launch The Lancet‘
s new series on maternal and child undernutrition. The series aims to bring attention to the burden of undernutrition and raise support for evidence-based interventions that are implemented to scale. The speakers—including Joy Phumaphi
, vice president for Human Development at the World Bank; Kent Hill
, assistant administrator for global health at the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Tadataka Yamada
, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program—emphasized the linkages between undernutrition and national productivity and prosperity. “Improved health for the world’s poor is not only a moral imperative, but also a pragmatic investment for peace, security, and worldwide economic growth,” said Hill. It is not surprising that the Japanese government recently gave $300,000
to fund a maternal and child health and nutrition program in Pakistan
in an effort to alleviate poverty and increase security in the area.
Robert Black of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Policy, the lead author of the series, emphasized that many national plans to improve nutrition have yet to be effectively implemented or have failed to achieve high coverage. He stressed the need to incorporate nutrition priorities into non-health programs and policies such as those addressing poverty, trade, and agriculture. Boldly, Black characterized the international nutrition system as fragmented and dysfunctional and called for reforms that included greater funding, capacity strengthening, and accountability.
According to The Lancet, “3.5 million mothers and children under five die unnecessarily each year due to the underlying cause of undernutrition, and millions more are permanently disabled by the physical and mental effects of a poor dietary intake in the earliest months of life.” It is time national governments and the international community acknowledge the negative impact of undernutrition on health, education, productivity, and human security. Nations will not be healthy, prosperous, and peaceful until their people are properly nourished and given the chance to develop to their full capacity. For more information on this event, visit the Global Health Initiative’s website.