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NUTRITIONAL STATUS IS INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED as an indicator of national development. Nutrition is both an input into and an output of the development process. A well nourished, healthy workforce is a precondition for successful economic and social development, and as such, food security, nutrition, health and sanitation are a responsibility of all development sectors. Undernutrition and poor health are manifestations of a failure of the development process to reach some segments of the population.

The causes of undernutrition cover a broad spectrum, emanating from political, environmental, socio-economic, health and intra-household factors. Nutrition, therefore, is a multisectoral issue which should be addressed by the various development sectors. Past nutrition intervention programmes have often been consumption oriented, with emphasis on nutrition education and backyard food production. Such nutrition interventions can temporarily address problems of certain population groups that are not adequately covered by the development process; but we should now complement these efforts by addressing the root causes of malnutrition, to realize long-term solutions.

One of the most efficient and effective means of ensuring adequate food security and better nutrition is to integrate nutrition considerations into the development process. In most developing countries, undernutrition is usually viewed as a public health problem; on the other hand, nutrition is largely viewed as an independent discipline, which has its own agenda, and is seldom of high priority in the development schedule. Nutrition units are often located in the health and agriculture sectors; however, nutrition issues are rarely given high priority. It is assumed that development in other sectors/disciplines will have a positive impact on nutritional status. In order to provide sustainable improvement in nutritional status, nutrition needs to be recognized and addressed within the context of overall development policy.

The Incorporation of Nutrition into Development Policies and Programmes was one of nine themes selected by the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) held in Rome in 1992, under which nutrition and health issues could be effectively addressed. Based on the nine themes, the Conference developed a World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition. The Plan of Action aims to eliminate hunger and reduce all forms of malnutrition, particularly among the undernourished population groups, through sustainable food security, rural development, environmental and health programmes. The Plan was further endorsed by Commitment Seven of the World Food Summit (WFS) held in Rome in November 1996, which focused on food security, and more recently by the World Food Summit Five Years Later held in Rome in 2002.

In adopting the ICN Plan of Action for Nutrition, participating countries agreed to prepare National Plans of Action for Nutrition (NPAN). In formulating their NPAN, several countries expressed the need for assistance in terms of advocacy to raise awareness about the need to integrate nutrition objectives into development policies. In response to this request, FAO developed this advocacy document.

Prior to the ICN, the Food and Nutrition Division of FAO addressed the question of Incorporating Nutrition Considerations into Agricultural Projects and Programmes. In 1982, FAO published Integrating Nutrition into Agricultural and Rural Development Projects: A Manual (Nutrition in Agriculture Series No. 1). The manual presented a methodology to integrate nutrition considerations into agricultural and rural development projects. This methodology has been implemented in projects in Haiti, Kenya, Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Zambia. Training workshops to assist nutrition planners in applying this methodology were held in Ethiopia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) prepared a background paper for ICN 1992 entitled Major Issues for Nutrition Strategies: Incorporating Nutrition Objectives into Development Policies and Programmes (Theme paper No. 8). This paper discusses issues on the multisectoral nature of nutrition, its integral role in development and the significance of including nutrition considerations into development policies and programmes.

Past efforts have not included nutrition advocacy, but merely introduced nutrition where the concept of nutrition has already been accepted. This policy brief, Incorporating Nutrition Considerations into Development Policies and Programmes, will:

(a) provide policy-makers with practical strategies for incorporating nutrition considerations into relevant development policies.

(b) provide health and nutrition workers with a tool to advocate for nutrition at the policy level.

The brief is presented as two documents a long document and a summary version. It is hoped that these documents will encourage effective dialogue among the different sectors involved, to promote better nutritional status and, ultimately, sustainable development.

On behalf of FAO, I would like to thank Professor I.O. Akinyele of the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria for producing the first draft of this document. The document was further developed and finalized by Juliet Aphane, of the Food and Nutrition Division, with editorial assistance from Brett Shapiro. Guy Nantel, also of the Food and Nutrition Division, provided valuable comments and input throughout the development of this document. We thank FAO consultants Rosanne Marchesich and Gina Kennedy for their helpful input in the development of this document. Our gratitude also goes to FAO colleagues from the Policy Coordinating Service for their valuable input: Tshikala Tshibaka at headquarters and Carlos Santana, Ueda Takeshi and staff of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. We gratefully acknowledge the thoughtful and extensive contributions of Dieter K H Muller-Praefcke, retired FAO policy expert. Special thanks go to Mofota Griffiths-Shomari from the Commonwealth Regional Health Community Secretariat for her technical contributions. Giuseppina Di Felice is recognized for the secretarial and administrative support she provided.

All photos in the book are from the FAO media base.

Kraisid Tontisirin
Food and Nutrition Division
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy

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