Noncommunicable diseases and mental health

NMH Newsletter

Issue 1, January 2011

Nutrition for Health and Development

WHO evidence informed Nutrition Guidelines development

The Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD) is strengthening its role in providing evidence-informed policy and programme guidance to Member States, in partnership with the Department of Research Policy and Cooperation (RPC) and guided by the WHO Handbook for Guidelines Development procedures.

To implement this, NHD established the WHO Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group (NUGAG) guided by the WHO Steering Committee for Nutrition Guidelines Development including representatives from all Departments in WHO with an interest in the provision of recommendations in nutrition. The membership of NUGAG is multidisciplinary, gender and geographically balanced and includes experts from various WHO Expert Advisory Panels and a larger roster including thorough open calls for experts.

Currently, the NUGAG consists of four subgroups: 1) micronutrients, 2) diet and health, 3) nutrition in life course and undernutrition and 4) monitoring and evaluation. The NUGAG meets twice a year to implement biannual programme of work to develop WHO evidence- informed nutrition guidelines. Several NUGAG meetings were held in 2010: 22-26 February, Geneva, Switzerland (Subgroups: Micronutrients, Diet and Health) 2-4 June, Geneva, Switzerland (Subgroup: Nutrition in Life Course and Undernutrition) 15-17 September, Panama City, Panama (Subgroup: Monitoring and Evaluation) 15-18 November, Amman, Jordan (Subgroups: Micronutrients, Nutrition in Life Course and Undernutrition)

The next NUGAG meeting is scheduled for 14-18 March 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland.

World Health Assembly passes resolution on infant and child nutrition

In May 2010, the Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA63.23 on infant and young child nutrition, which urged Member States to increase political commitment to preventing and reducing malnutrition in all its forms, to expedite implementation of the global strategy on infant and young child feeding, and to expand interventions.

The Health Assembly also requested the WHO Director-General to provide support to Member States in expanding their nutritional interventions and to develop a comprehensive implementation plan on infant and young child nutrition as a critical component of a global multisectoral nutrition framework.

The implementation plan will comprise four main sections: challenges; implementation of policies and programmes to reduce the double burden of malnutrition; objectives, targets and time frame; and actions.

The plan will align with existing policy frameworks that support improvements in the area of infant and young child nutrition. The Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding advocates comprehensive national policies, drafted after thorough needs assessments, to foster environments that protect, promote and support appropriate infant and young child feeding practices.

The Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health recognizes that a life-course perspective is essential for covering all aspects of nutrition. The action plan of the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases includes the promotion of breastfeeding and complementary feeding among the key interventions for reducing shared modifiable risk factors for noncommunicable diseases.

In 2009-2010 representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations and development banks, donor agencies, civil society, the research community and the private sector prepared a framework of action for reducing undernutrition with the purpose of accelerating progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

An important link between food security and nutrition has already been established through the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis. In 2010 this body updated its comprehensive framework for action, highlighting the need to consider food and nutrition security, and giving extra emphasis on social protection and safety nets through interventions for better nutrition and dietary diversity.

In October 2010, the Committee on World Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) pledged to prepare a global strategic framework for food security and nutrition by October 2012. Strategies and programme experience in linking food security and nutrition will also be discussed at the International Conference on Nutrition, scheduled to be held in 2012 and being jointly convened by FAO and WHO.

In September 2010 the United Nations Secretary-General launched the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, which inter alia stresses the need to ensure exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, to prevent and treat malnutrition and to improve overall nutrition of mothers and children.