Narayan Subedi, a Nepali health professional, is one of many public health experts dedicated to implementing evidence-based maternal and child health nutrition programs in his mountainous country. Despite a background in public health, Narayan previously had a limited understanding of nutrition programming or multi-sectoral actions that can tackle the complex drivers of both chronic and acute malnutrition in Nepal.
Traditionally, malnutrition in its various manifestations has been seen as a medical problem requiring treatment rather than as a preventable condition requiring pro-active multisectoral measures. Recognizing this, the Government of Nepal recently implemented a Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan that requires all ministries to assume responsibility for nutrition. As a result, attention and funds have shifted towards implementation of ‘nutrition-sensitive’ interventions straddling diverse domains that include agriculture, poverty reduction, social protection and education. To do this, professionals like Narayan needed to be aware of evidence on ‘what works’ from other disciplines and to collaborate with colleagues in many sectors to design, implement, and document the impact of integrated multisector programming at scale.
Thanks to support from USAID, the Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab is building institutional capacity in Nepal to train the next generation of professionals, like Narayan, needed to maintain a high caliber of both research and implementation in years to come. The Nutrition Innovation Lab has spent the past few years reaching out to policymakers, academic institutions, scholars, and practitioners to assess priority skills and knowledge gaps, while investing in workshops, training, graduate education, and the establishment of a new degree program in Nepal. The common element throughout has been the development of human and institutional capacity to translate science into practice and promote rigor in research through close collaborations with local academic and policymaking institutions.
For example, since 2012, the Nutrition Innovation Lab has convened three Bangalore Boston Nutrition Collaborative workshops at which 16 Nepalese health, agriculture, and other development and policy professionals were trained in advanced research methods and in the translation of evidence to policy and practice. Narayan was one of the first to complete this training.
Narayan also participated in the Nutrition Innovation Lab’s 3rd Annual Scientific Symposium in 2014 in Kathmandu. The symposia have focused on discussing and disseminating empirical research findings among all sectors concerned with agriculture, food security, health and nutrition. Roughly 300 scholars, policymakers, donor partners, and students participated in the 2014 Symposium. In addition, a number of students from diverse Nepali academic institutions attended to present posters and to be exposed to the latest science, cutting edge thinking, and policy-relevant research.
To enhance capacity building efforts in Nepal, the Nutrition Innovation Lab has also invested heavily in the Institute of Medicine to develop its first Public Health Nutrition curriculum. This graduate program launched in 2015 with five students who are pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition. Fortunately for these students, Narayan Subedi is a member of the department that hosts this program. As a newly-minted Assistant Professor of Public Health, his background and cross-disciplinary training will be intrinsically valuable to the development and implementation of this new curriculum.