The breaking dawn of multisectoral nutrition planning1 occurred in the early 1970s with the new coordinated thinking to combat malnutrition (Box 1). Although attractive and ambitious then, the concept seemed to slip through the cracks as policymakers did not realize the full potential of intersectoral initiatives.2 Four decades later, the nutrition community has come a long way in emphasizing the need for multiple stakeholders across sectors to collaborate for designing, implementing and monitoring joint solutions to ensure improvements in nutrition. However, there remains the question of whether we have done enough to make multisectoral approaches for nutrition an incentive for sectors to recognize the agenda as their own.
In recent years there has been greater recognition of the importance of multisectoralism for nutrition and its varying benefits. The World Bank identified that multisectoral actions can maximize nutritional outcomes across other sectors by accelerating action on determinants of undernutrition, integrating nutrition considerations into programs in other sectors that may be substantially larger in scale and increasing policy coherence that may have consequences on nutrition.3 This was further echoed by the 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition showing that nutrition-sensitive programs in agriculture, social welfare, early child development and schooling can be successful at addressing several underlying determinants of nutrition by serving as delivery platforms for nutrition-specific interventions, potentially increasing their scale, coverage and effectiveness (Box 2).4 Recent evidence from carefully designed nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs with explicit nutrition goals and interventions shows a greater impact on household and child dietary diversity and improved consumption of animal source foods or fruits and vegetables.
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