Stories of Change in Nutrition Expands Focus to Vietnam

Floating Market in Vietnam Photo: WorldFish/J.Oliver

Vietnam, with its rapidly changing population, markets, incomes, education, and more, offers a host of learning opportunities for those studying development in nutrition and other areas, there and elsewhere around the world.

After several years of growing political commitment, with more and more pledges and declarations and an increasing focus on data and on evidence, the international nutrition community has come to recognize the power of narrative. Knowledge that is practically useful needs to encompass a lot more than data and evident -- it needs to include experience. To meet this growing demand for experiential learning, Transform Nutrition developed the Stories of Change in Nutrition initiative. The goal was to systematically assess and analyze drivers of change in six high-burden countries -- Bangladesh, India (Odisha), Ethiopia, Nepal, Senegal, and Zambia -- that have had some success in accelerating improvements in nutrition. These narratives have now been captured and are available as papers, briefs, and videos. A synthesis brief, What works for Nutrition?, is now available, and summarizes the main findings and recommendations so far.

Vietnam, along with Tanzania, has now been added to this list as a country with interesting 'stories of change in nutrition' which need to be understood. Under SPEAR, A4NH's Flagship Research Program Four, ten countries have been identified as places where poverty and high burdens of malnutrition and ill health coexist.

The Vietnam Story of Change aims to understand the history, contemporary treatment, and future of nutrition in Vietnam, including policy and practice pertaining to both under- and over-nutrition. The totality of the research uses quantitative methods to explore trends in nutrition outcomes and drivers; and qualitative approaches to analyze trends in 'enabling environments' for nutrition. Initial stages of the research have captured trends and drivers in child stunting using large national datasets; reviewed and synthesized nutrition-related policies from a range of sectors; and undertaken a first round of interviews with key informants working in nutrition policy in Hanoi.

In 2018, researchers will use this initial data to draw out key stories of change in nutrition for Vietnam, and undertake deeper investigation of these stories through further statistical analyses and further rounds of interviews in rural and urban areas of the country. Vietnam's Stories of Change will be ready to share by the end of 2018, and the learning can be used nationally to contribute ideas on how to move forward with nutrition policy, and shared with other countries tackling similar nutrition issues. A full paper and summary brief will be available by October 2018.