Though nutrition behavior change is IMA World Health’s newest focus area, IMA and our partners are seeing encouraging progress in our projects that aim to reduce child stunting. Following its first year of operation, the Addressing Stunting in Tanzania Early, or ASTUTE, program received an A+ rating from its funding agency, the U.K.’s Department for International Development. Additionally, following two successful years of implementation in three districts, the Millennium Challenge Account in Indonesia awarded IMA with an extension that expands the National Nutrition Communications Campaign into eight additional districts through 2018.
Stunting is a result of inadequate nutrition during a child’s first 1,000 days from conception to age 2. Stunting affects a child’s overall health, physical and cognitive development, and longevity. Children who are stunted run a higher risk of staying in poverty for generations. Studies in both Tanzania and Indonesia estimate that about 1 in 3 children under age 5 are stunted.
Except in extreme cases of severe acute malnutrition that require therapeutic feeding, IMA takes a broader and more sustainable approach to stunting by influencing social norms and addressing misconceptions around feeding and nutrition. Advocacy also plays a critical role in our work, as we partner with local and national governments to influence policies and raise the profile of stunting and malnutrition in their health and development agendas.
Through ASTUTE in Tanzania and the National Nutrition Communications Campaign in Indonesia, IMA uses both mass media, such as national TV and radio campaigns, as well as grassroots communication methods to encourage parents and other caregivers to adopt healthy behaviors to reduce stunting. These include adequate nutrition for pregnant mothers, exclusive breastfeeding, good hygiene and a nutritious, diversified diet after 6 months of age—all of which have a big impact on a child’s growth and development.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, IMA also aims to reduce stunting and malnutrition as a component of the more comprehensive Access to Primary Health Care project, or ASSP, funded by DFID. ASSP employs a multidisciplinary, community-driven approach that uses nutrition education and counseling, home gardens and home-based follow-up to change behaviors and empower families toward consuming high-quality nutritious foods.
While each nutrition-centered project is tailored to the local context, the goals are similar: change how people think about nutrition and feeding so that they can change how they feed themselves and their children for a healthier future.