Viewing All Strategies
Agriculture & natural resource management
The paths to improved agricultural production and enhanced nutrition can be mutually reinforcing: improvements in diet lead to improved agricultural production through greater worker output; conversely, improvements in agricultural production lead to better nutrition by increasing the quantity and quality of food produced. Environmentally-friendly production that conserves natural resources helps this cycle continue sustainably. AED works with its partners to promote the sustainable production and consumption of nutritionally adequate food crops, especially ones that address the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies among the poor and key target groups such as children under five, pregnant or lactating women, or people affected by chronic illnesses.
Behavior change communication
Systematic behavior change approaches are fundamental to improving the nutritional status of women and young children. AED has been a leader for nearly two decades in the use of communication to bring about measurable changes in nutrition-related practices among large populations. Strategies are aimed at influencing the actions of families and communities, health workers and volunteers, as well as policy makers. In addition to considering individual health beliefs and practices, a strategic plan to promote nutritional improvements also addresses as appropriate the policy environment, local traditions and household dynamics, and the quality and availability of services and products. Audiences are carefully segmented, messages and materials are pre-tested, and both mass media and interpersonal channels are used to achieve defined behavioral objectives. AED is a proven leader in the design, implementation and evaluation of strategic behavior change programs in a range of nutrition-related practices and has achieved measurable results in programs world wide.
Cultural beliefs and human behavior are major factors influencing nutritional status. Nutrition-related behaviors are based upon the local availability of foods and related products, as well as deeply ingrained traditions, household dynamics, and social norms. Strategies to affect practices-in addition to knowledge and attitudes-must address these underlying factors and offer feasible, acceptable alternatives in order to achieve long-term, sustainable changes in diet and nutrition. AED uses state-of-the-art research methods based on proven theories and models of behavior change to understand to factors influencing nutritional practices and to develop communications strategies, moving populations toward healthier daily nutrition practices. AED staff have authored numerous sentinel papers and written field-friendly manuals on how to apply behavioral research methods, including focus groups discussions, rapid participatory appraisals, and trials of improved practices for BCC programs on breastfeeding, complementary feeding, maternal nutrition, obesity, nutrition and HIV/AIDS, and mitigating the nutritional consequences of the avian influenza epidemic.
Capacity development and training
AED helps build the capacity, knowledge, and skills of program managers, health providers, and community workers to support healthy behaviors. AED supports training to update nutrition knowledge and to develop skills in nutrition policy analysis and advocacy, counseling and health communication, formative research, messages and materials development, and monitoring and evaluation. Capacity building activities include technical updates and refresher training, short, skills-based training, customized and on-site training to ensure local relevance; mentoring, self-study and distance learning to reduce cost and extend coverage, and exchange visits. Training programs at all levels use proven participatory learning approaches. AED also provides assistance for updating pre-service curricula so tomorrow's providers are equipped to promote and support good practices.
Community mobilization, based upon participatory processes and the engagement of vulnerable populations themselves, produces the energy and commitment essential for positive social change. Systematic engagement of communities in developing a shared vision and plan of action empowers key groups and ensures local ownership of that change. In order to bring about improvements in nutrition awareness and practices, AED often works with local NGOs and PVOs who have long-term ties to populations. AED's strategies differ from country to country, and include innovative approaches such as the Champion Community Initiative, which integrates development goals across sectors. AED builds upon established networks of mothers clubs, schools, religious groups, and local people of influence to build coalitions, promote grass-roots advocacy efforts, and organize communities for collective action as well as individual and family behavior change.
Essential nutrition actions
Through its various country programs, AED has been a key player in initiating and strengthening the Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) framework. ENA stresses the promotion of optimal nutritional practices spanning infant and young child feeding, micronutrients, and women's nutrition, at key times during the life cycle. The framework highlights six priority interventions and six specific contacts with the health system for incorporating appropriate nutrition emphases. Nutrition support is integrated into many different programs in the health and non-health sectors, utilizing multiple program opportunities as a way to reach high coverage of priority target groups. The ENA approach has been initiated in countries in Africa including Senegal, Benin, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Niger; in Asia (Indonesia and India); as well as by donor agencies (USAID, UNICEF) as the overarching approach within which to promote improved nutritional status during the first two years of life as well as during pregnancy and lactation.
Monitoring and evaluation
The AED team is engaged in the development, testing and validation of new nutrition program indicators and intervention designs using a set of approaches that include community surveys and process evaluations. AED's monitoring and evaluation (M&E) approach is grounded in principles of responsiveness, rigor, state-of-the-art methods, connection to programs and decision making, and cost-effectiveness. As data come into project M&E systems, they are shared with stakeholders through data analysis and interpretation workshops and communities of practice that revolve around specific technical themes-using participatory and capacity building methods. AED's M&E systems inform program management and broaden the base of knowledge on how to implement interventions at scale efficiently and effectively. Our approach is responsive to donor and stakeholder concerns for accurate and timely results reporting. Our early thinking-during program planning and development-about the use of data ensures the efficient translation of data into results reports for multiple stakeholders.
Nutrition assessment & surveillance
Understanding the extent of malnutrition, its underlying causes, and how these change over time is essential to the design and implementation of nutrition and food security programs. AED works with donor agencies and implementing organizations to develop nutrition assessment and surveillance systems that provide accurate, informative, cost-efficient, and timely data for the situation at hand. AED experts advise on statistically appropriate methods of data analysis, collaborating with donor agencies and implementing organizations to interpret and use the data for action-oriented decisions, including those related to early warning and response planning, program monitoring and evaluation, and the design and implementation of effective nutrition and food security programs to improve the overall well-being of the population. AED staff regularly publish issues papers and briefs to summarize the scientific evidence underpinning the programs it supports, with the goal of making this information accessible to users in the field.
Policy analysis & advocacy
Helping decision-makers understand the crucial role that nutrition plays in human and economic development is essential for assuring political commitment, resource allocation, and appropriate policies that will allow nations to develop and prosper. For more than 15 years, AED has been a leader in the field of evidence-based nutrition policy analysis and advocacy using PROFILES, a participatory advocacy process that builds upon a spreadsheet-based computer software program for quantifying the impacts and costs of diverse nutritional problems. PROFILES helps different stakeholders in health, agriculture, education, and finance to share a common understanding of nutritional problems and cost-effective solutions. PROFILES has been used in more than 30 countries worldwide to influence long- and short-term planning, strategy development, and resource allocation. PROFILES spreadsheets are constantly updated to include the latest information, and span the range of nutritional considerations from low birth weight to obesity.
Product and market research
Improvements in nutritional status often depend upon the introduction of new or changed products-including home recipes for infant foods, fortified staples for general consumption, commercially fortified complementary foods for young children, or micronutrient supplements such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc. Any changes in familiar products, or introduction of new ones, requires sensitive assessments of the local markets, the potential competition, and testing and "positioning" of recipes, products, or supplements with target audiences. AED often works with industry partners as well as local distributors to conduct appropriate product and market research to increase demand for and consumption of high quality, low cost, easily prepared and culturally acceptable foods and supplements by those who are most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies.
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