Ugh, I hear some of you say. Sell nutrition? Well, it is not doing such a great job of selling itself: 1 in 3 world wide are malnourished in one form or another. And just as we begin to reduce one form of malnutrition (stunting), another begins to pop up all over the place (obesity). So, it needs selling. But how? I was recently asked by a leading marketing and advertising company what was the one thing to emphasise. Of course I said it depends on the audience.
There are at least 7 approaches any budding nutrition champion can take:
1. Human Rights. This argument really appeals to those with strong first principles about justice and morality. This could be the right to food or water or the rights of women or child rights. I personally favour the rights of the child route–I find it more powerful to talk about the rights of those who are least able to claim their rights.
2. Child survival. We know that 45% of under 5 mortality is linked to poor nutrition status. For those whose buttons are pushed by mortality rates, this is the fact to emphasise. This tends to appeal to the general public and those who work in the health field.
3. Early Child Development. For those in the education field this is the most important period–getting ready for school entry. And remember we care about stunting because it is a marker for impaired brain development.
4. Economic returns. We know that for every $1 invested in scaling up high impact nutrition programmes we get $16 back. That is some return! Economists are interested in this.
5. Poverty. We know that kids that avoid stunting or who are breastfed for over 12 months are much more likely to avoid poverty as adults. This appeals to the social development policy wonks.
6. Intergenerational justice. This may be powerful with the environmentalists. What is this generation leaving the next generation to work with? That’s not just natural resources but the human resources needed to manage those natural resources.
7. National narratives. This is the most unorthodox and most under-explored of motivations, but how can a country portray itself as dynamic and emerging if 40% of its kids are stunted and probably less that half of its kids are growing healthily? It can’t, at least not for long For national leaders who want their country to be seen as a leading light in their region, the coexistence of malnutrition and the banners seen at airports proclaiming their country’s emergence will become very uncomfortable.
Having so many reasons for investing in nutrition action may be seen as a weakness (why can’t you just focus?) but I think having many tools in your toolbox is far more preferable.
You just have to know when and how to use each of them.
This post was written by Lawrence Haddad and first appeared on Development Horizons