IYCN Update: November 2011

Welcome to the tenth issue of the IYCN Update, a newsletter from USAID’s Infant & Young Child Nutrition (IYCN) Project. Distributed four times per year, each issue offers updates on the latest research, new resources, and project news.

Research highlights

Peer counseling increases exclusive breastfeeding rates

Results of the PROMISE-EBF study, a cluster-randomized trial published in The Lancet in July 2011, showed that a low-intensity peer counseling intervention may have the potential to increase exclusive breastfeeding in sub-Saharan Africa for infants up to 6 months of age. Read more.

Effects of vitamin A or beta carotene supplements on maternal and infant mortality

A randomized controlled trial, published in the May 2011 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the impacts of weekly vitamin A or beta carotene on maternal and infant mortality in Bangladesh. Researchers found no significant differences in all-cause maternal, fetal, or infant mortality in the vitamin A group or the beta carotene group as compared to the control. While the findings differ dramatically from a similar study in Nepal, a recent large-scale trial in Africa showed similar results. Read more.

Balanced protein energy supplementation beneficial during pregnancy

In a meta-analysis published in Biomed Central Public Health in April 2011, researchers found a 31 percent reduction in the risk of delivering a baby who was small for gestational age when mothers were provided with a balanced protein energy supplementation during pregnancy. The authors conducted the review in order to recommend a point estimate for the intervention’s inclusion in the Lives Saved Tool. Read more.

Human nutrition as a benefit of agricultural ecosystems

The authors of a paper published in a supplement to the Food and Nutrition Bulletin in March 2011 make a case for treating agriculture as an ecological system serving human nutrition. They suggest that ecological knowledge, tools, and models have an important role to play in efforts to direct food systems at improved human nutrition. Read more.

Featured resource: Strengthening community nutrition programming

In July, we launched our new collection of tools for reaching caregivers, households, and communities. The collection includes literature reviews, training materials, and monitoring and evaluation tools that program implementers can adapt and use to enhance community nutrition programs. IYCN has employed the resources in several countries to reach mothers and engage key influencers, such as fathers, grandmothers, and community leaders, to improve nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life. Learn more and download the resources.   

Country spotlight: Nigeria

Building a strong foundation for nutrition programming

Since 2009, IYCN has supported the government of Nigeria’s efforts to reduce maternal and child malnutrition and improve HIV-free survival of children. In collaboration with a wide range of partners, IYCN’s efforts have increased understanding of gaps in nutrition assessment, counseling, and support; influenced and strengthened five national nutrition policies and guidelines; and improved the capacity of health workers and community workers.

The project also developed several new social and behavior change communication tools for health providers and caregivers and strengthened nutrition services through a quality improvement approach.   

At an October 27 end-of-project event, partners committed to scaling up capacity building activities to 28 states.

View a summary of our activities and accomplishments in Nigeria.

View a summary of our approach to shaping infant feeding and HIV policy in Nigeria

Project news

New and improved tools for agriculture project designers

After making several improvements and revisions, IYCN recently launched new versions of two tools to help agriculture projects maximize nutritional benefits of interventions. The project shared the new resources with more than 70 participants during a September 7 forum in Washington, DC, and presented them to a crowd of more than 300 colleagues at the Federation of African Nutrition Societies Congress in Abuja, Nigeria on September 14.  View the new tools.

Read an IRIN news article on IYCN’s Nutritional Impact Assessment Tool

Supporting SUN, ending stunting in Malawi

The IYCN team recently joined with the Office of the President and Cabinet and a wide range of partners to support the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in Malawi, one of the first countries to launch the movement.

To build broad support for the country’s new SUN strategy and ensure its success, the project has encouraged civil society participation, developed a new package of training materials for community workers, led a working group on monitoring and evaluation to develop indicators for the SUN strategy, and participated in a high-level SUN event during the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2011. 

Read IYCN Malawi Country Coordinator Janet Guta’s post on the 1,000 Days blog to learn more.


Bringing nutrition to the forefront of agriculture: a forum for agriculture project designers

On September 7, more than 70 colleagues joined IYCN and the Alliance to End Hunger to discuss the linkages between agriculture and nutrition programming. The half-day event featured a forum on the integration of nutritional concerns into agricultural programming, and a practicum on the assessment and improvement of agricultural project designs to maximize nutrition and food security outcomes. Learn more.

Preventing maternal malnutrition: evidence, challenges, and opportunities

IYCN hosted a panel discussion on preventing maternal malnutrition on August 16. Panelists shared findings from three IYCN studies revealing insights on dietary practices of mothers; discussed the links between maternal and child nutrition; and explored barriers, challenges, and solutions for programs to prevent malnutrition of mothers.  Learn more.

Brown bag: Engaging grandmothers and men to prevent malnutrition

On August 10, IYCN hosted a brown bag presentation and discussion with Dr. Judi Aubel of The Grandmother Project. Dr. Aubel shared findings from IYCN’s review of literature from more than 40 countries on the roles and influence of grandmothers and men and discussed recommendations for effectively engaging key household members to improve nutrition. Learn more.

What works for community nutrition programming?

More than 150 participants joined IYCN on July 19 for a half-day meeting on community programming to prevent malnutrition. Speakers included IYCN country coordinators from five countries and the project’s partners, who shared challenges, experiences, and future directions for community nutrition interventions during a lively discussion moderated by Denise Lionetti, IYCN Project Director. Learn more.

Additional IYCN materials

Technical briefs

Tools and guides

For agriculture project designers


We welcome your feedback and suggestions for our next issue. Please contact: info@iycn.org.

Photos: Aurelio Ayala III, Evelyn Hockstein, Oluseyi Akintola, Jay Ward