By: Lindsey Lenters, RD, University of Toronto
As a Dietitian and Masters of Public Health student, the session on infant mortality and micronutrition was on the top of my list of break-out sessions! Much of the discussion centered on the treatment of childhood diarrheal disease using zinc supplementation and oral rehydration. Zinc was recognized as an essential nutrient many decades ago. Yet it’s only in recent years, through the work of the panelists and other researchers that we have begun to understand the impact of zinc on child development and diarrheal disease.
Perhaps the most captivating aspect of this session lay in the discussions that stemmed beyond zinc, to look at the challenges faced in scaling-up and sustaining nutrition initiatives. Sue Horton pointed out that nutrition interventions have not benefitted from increased funding for global health initiatives to the same extent as issues such as HIV/AIDS and TB, despite an established evidence-base of effective nutrition interventions, as well as compelling cost-benefit arguments. Charles Larson touched on the need to better understand decision-making processes at the household level in order to see the uptake of micronutrient interventions. Mark Fryars spoke to the need to apply an equity lens to scale-up efforts, in order to ensure that interventions cover those in need, not just those in reach.
The issues surrounding malnutrition are complex and will require long-term, sustained attention from the public and private sectors. There is a long road ahead, yet this session beautifully captured the growing momentum and energy around nutrition in global health.
The lingering thoughts in my mind revolve around the issue of the “medicalization” of nutrition, and what might be lost if we do not seek to understand the daily contexts and personal meanings of food and nutrition.