Inside the 2014 Micronutrient Forum

This post was written by guest-blogger, Stuart Gillespie, Senior Researcher at IFPRI and a lead nutritionist with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH)

 

“Why are you here?”  I have often asked myself this question in past conferences. But this time it was being asked of me and other panelists by the chair of a panel on building enabling environments at the 2014 Micronutrient Forum in Addis Ababa.

 

Normally, I don’t sign up for a week-long conferences on micronutrients.  Previous conferences (the last one being Beijing in 2009) have tended to be for the hardcore micronutrient crowd – full of presentations and posters on single-nutrient randomized controlled trials. But this one is very different.

 

Two years ago, the organizers made a conscious effort to revive the Forum and open it up to research and debate on the big current issues of multisectoral engagement, scaling up, operationalizing integrated programs, strengthening capacity and leadership, innovative financing and how to build enabling policy and political environments. They have brought together a wide ranging, multidisciplinary group of participants (up to 1,000 registered) and developed a lively program.

 

Transform Nutrition’s work is being presented in five sessions (including the opening plenary), in two of the four Thematic Topics at the Forum, including “Scaling Up: bridging the gaps between evidence and implementation,” and “Stakeholders and sustainability: elements of an enabling environment.”

 

One strong theme in discussions is, ‘Yes, we get the need for a multisectoral approaches, but how do we do it, and how do we avoid the mistakes of the past?’ recent report from the SUN secretariat describes how several Multistakeholder Platforms (MSPs) are being given a legal footing through presidential or prime ministerial decrees, and several countries are decentralizing the MSP mechanism from national to district-level. Implementation is clearly the new frontline.  We need to catalyze more experiential learning by developing stories of policy change, and we need to undertake more and better research on the nuts and bolts of how to make programs work.

 

Today, Transform Nutrition (TN) is involved in sessions on “capacity development and leadership”, and on “defining obligations and taking responsibility.” Tomorrow, I present the TN evidence review (co-authored with Purnima Menon and Andrew Kennedy) on “scaling up impact on nutrition: what and how?”

 

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Several other A4NH researchers and partners are presenting at the Forum this week, including:

  • Marie Ruel (A4NH’s Flagship 4 Leader) is chairing a session on platforms for micronutrient delivery, and presenting on agriculture and social protection platforms and next steps for food-based interventions.
  • Deanna Olney, who supports evaluations of the Enhanced Food Production program with Helen Keller International, was a panelist at yesterday’s opening session.
  • Purnima Menon, who directs the POSHAN program in India, is facilitating a session on stakeholder actions.
  • Jack Fiedler is presenting on uses of household income and expenditure surveys for nutrition policy-making and to design fortification programs.
  • Celeste Sununtnasuk is presenting on iron-folic acid distribution and consumption through antenatal care.
  • Shalini Roy is presenting on enhancing nutrition through preschool and school meal programs.