“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” –Proverb
For the nutrition community in India,the time is ripe for going far together. The Union Cabinet’s recent approval of setting up the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) is a historic moment and opportunity for driving change at-scale in India. As a nutrition community, the NNM is a call to action to break down organizational and sectoral siloes that impede our progress in improving nutrition outcomes for women and children, and commit to effective collaboration that leverages our collective strength.
Fortunately, we know the technical solutions to promote healthy growth and development within the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, including good maternal nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding for infants aged 0 – 5 months, and timely and appropriate complementary feeding for young children ages 6 – 23 months. We also know that comprehensive programs result in more behavior change. Impact on behaviors is highest when a mother is exposed to both mass media and interpersonal communication. For example, in Alive &Thrive’s study areas in Viet Nam, the exclusive breastfeeding rate increased from 26% in2011 (pre-campaign) to 51% in areas exposed to the Alive & Thrive TV spots versus 60% in areas with both the TV spots and interpersonal IYCF counseling in 2013.
Yet we cannot collectively ignore that to sustainably change behaviors of individuals, we must also change the behavior and performance of the system. This will require us to think of new methods to change systems effectively, efficiently, and sustainably. It will require true collaboration and partnership among organizations and sectors to share goals that include impact at-scale and joint accountability for results. Harmonization among partners and a collective action agenda alsohelps in providing relevant and effective technical assistance to government to improve systems processes and governance for nutrition.
The NNM is a strong step in that direction and a call to action for all of us in the nutrition community to “go far by going together.”
Dr. Sebanti Ghosh,
Alive & Thrive India