Skip to main content

Global Nutrition Series

On 6 June 2013, The Lancet published a new Series on maternal and child nutrition, featuring new data and policy recommendations. The papers are a follow-up to The Lancet’s landmark 2008 Series, which helped put nutrition on the global health and development agenda and identified the 1,000 days of a mother’s pregnancy until her child’s 2nd birthday as the priority window for impact.

Authored by the Maternal and Child Nutrition Study Group – a renowned set of global health and development academics and practitioners – the Series consists of four papers and a Call to Action commentary from the authors.

Paper 1 considers the prevalence and consequences of nutritional conditions during the life course from adolescence (for girls) through pregnancy to childhood and discusses the implications for adult health. Paper 2 covers the evidence supporting the nutrition-specific interventions and the health impact and cost of increasing their population coverage. Paper 3 considers nutrition-sensitive interventions and approaches and their potential to improve nutrition. Paper 4 examines the features of an enabling environment that are needed to provide support for nutrition programs, and how they can be favorably influenced. The Comment examines what is currently being done, and what should be done nationally and internationally to address nutritional and developmental needs of women and children in low- and middle-income countries.

The paper authors, The Lancet, and global nutrition actors and advocates launched the Series at events and briefings in London, Washington, DC, Ethiopia, India and other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The full Series is available at The Lancet online.

London, England

On June 6, 2013, The Lancet editor-in-chief Richard Horton and Series authors Robert Black, Zulfiqar Bhutta, Marie Ruel and Lawrence Haddad presented findings from the Series papers at a day-long symposium hosted by Imperial College London. The event included an in-depth panel discussion with Ferew Lemma from the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, Sandra Mutuma from Action Against Hunger, Andrew Dorward from the University of London, Anna Taylor from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and David Navarro from the Scaling Up Nutrition Secretariat.

Falling two days ahead of Nutrition for Growth, a high-level convening hosted by UK PM David Cameron to secure new commitments on nutrition, the launch of the Series armed advocates, media and policy makers with a new evidence base to inform their work around the summit and beyond. Key findings from the Series were also incorporated into the Nutrition for Growth Compact, in which leaders from government, civil society and business made a wide range of commitments to help reach 500 million pregnant women and children with nutrition interventions by 2020.

Washington, DC

On June 13, 2013, the World Bank, USAID, Bread for the World and the 1,000 Days partnership, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a Series briefing for the global health and development community in Washington, DC. The forum facilitated a deeper exploration of Series findings, implications and action steps following the Nutrition for Growth Summit in London, and a week of nutrition advocacy meetings and congressional briefings in Washington, DC.

Lead Series authors Robert Black, Jai Das, Marie Ruel, Harold Alderman, and Stuart Gillespie presented the Series papers. Rajul Pandya-Lorch from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) moderated the meeting and panel discussions that included a call for greater investments in nutrition and to prioritize nutrition on the development agenda. Speakers included representatives from BRAC, USAID, the World Bank and the Gates Foundation.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

On June 24, 2013, The Lancet Series was presented to nutrition stakeholders in Ethiopia as part of the reauthorization of the country’s second National Nutrition Program (NNP) on June 24th. Through the NNP, the Ethiopian government aims to reduce stunting from 44.4% to 30%; reduce wasting from 9.7 to 3%; and reduce chronic undernutrition in women of reproductive age from 27% to 19% by 2015. The NNP approach is rooted in the Series findings and recommendations.

Kicking off a three day technical workshop on nutrition, speakers welcomed the new NNP and affirmed their support for achieving its goals. Participants included First Lady Roman Tesfaye, Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Demeke Mekonnen, Health Minister Dr. Kesetbrehan Admassu, US Ambassador Donald Booth, UNICEF Representative Peter Salama and DFID Head of Human Development Peter Hawkins. The NNP was officially accepted by State Ministers representing nine different sectors.

Lancet Series Coordinator Bob Black and Paper two author Anna Lartey presented key findings from the Series as part of the day’s events. Joan Matji from UNICEF and Professor Tefera Belechew from Jimma University moderated a discussion on the implications of the Series findings for Ethiopia and how the Series’ recommendations were incorporated into the NNP. Panelists included Ferew Lemma (FMOH), Habtamu Fekadu (Save the Children), Eleni Asmare (FAO), Berhanu Hailigiorgis (DFID) and Augustin Flory (CIFF).

Looking ahead, nutrition stakeholders in Ethiopia will be focused on the implementation of the NNP across the country, as well as ensuring an open and transparent accountability process to meet the targets set forth in the strategy.


Interview with Series Coordinator Dr. Bob Black

New Delhi, India

India is home to 40% of the world’s malnourished children. India’s 2005-06 National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the latest data on nutrition indicators available for India, showed that nearly half (46%) of Indian children below three years of age were underweight and 38% were stunted. These are staggering and tragic statistics for a country with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

While the country has arguably invested heavily in nutrition-specific interventions, India’s latest data on nutrition indicators is nearly a decade old. Problems are still pervasive, and there is no way to track progress. As a result, there is resounding agreement among stakeholders that the greatest need for India to tackle nutrition in the short-term is a commitment to data collection through existing mechanisms, which would help quantify the problem of undernutrition and effectively target resources to solve it.

It was in this context that the decision was made to host a Lancet launch in India in order to highlight the country’s progress and pervasive challenges on nutrition and identify opportunities to drive forward momentum to solve the problem at the national level.

The India Lancet Series launch was held on June 28, 2013 in New Delhi, and included both a technical briefing and press conference co-hosted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Coalition for Sustainable Nutrition Security in India (Nutrition Coalition), with support from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Micronutrient Initiative.

The event drew a standing-room only crowd of more than 230 stakeholder participants and reporters from 40 media outlets. Authors Bob Black, Harold Alderman, Venkatesh Mannar and Purnima Menon opened the half-day session with a technical briefing that included a presentation of Series findings followed by an interactive discussion with the audience.

The technical briefing was chaired by Minister Jairam Ramesh, who delivered powerful remarks that focused on the role of sanitation – highlighted in the Series as a critical nutrition-sensitive intervention – in promoting nutrition. The Minister also used the opportunity to announce plans to expand a successful community-based Ministry program to provide nutritious meals to women and children at a sustainable cost.

Following the technical briefing, the event concluded with a political panel designed to focus squarely on the nutrition challenges in India, highlight success stories and discuss the way forward. The panel included Prof. K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI); Dr. Vinod Paul, Professor and Head of the Department of Pediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS); Vandana Krishna, Secretary and Commissioner of Women and Child Development for the State of Maharashtra (profiled as a success story in the Lancet Series) and Neerja Chaudhry, widely acclaimed journalist and outspoken supporter of the need to improve nutrition in India.

Post-event coverage to date has included more than 50 stories, over 90% of which have focused squarely on the large percentage of India’s children dying of malnutrition; the lack of data on nutrition indicators in India; the need to address the nutrition-sensitive intervention of sanitation and the need to improve maternal and child nutrition to ensure India’s continued economic growth.

Other Locations


Finishing the Undernutrition Agenda: Research and evidence to deliver results.

Undernutrition is an underlying cause of almost half of child deaths in the world each year; undernourished children face a lifetime of consequences, including chronic poor health, mental impairment and economic hardship. In a new series on maternal and child undernutrition, The Lancet features new data and policy recommendations on global nutrition. The papers are a follow up to The Lancet’s 2008 series, which identified the critical 1,000 days between a mother’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday as the priority window for impact.

On September 27, 2013, Series editor Dr. Robert Black and a panel of authors as they discussed how new evidence and recommendations can deliver better results on nutrition in the world’s poorest countries. The event took place at The Agha Khan Foundation Canada in Ottawa.


Save the Children launched the 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition in collaboration with Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, Professor and Founding Chair of the Division of Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University on Wednesday August 21, 2013 at the Hotel Serena in Islamabad.

The event was in the form of a round table with media, civil society, policy makers and representatives from the development sector, including the Development Partners for Nutrition (DPN) Group. In addition to Dr. Bhutta, other speakers included Mr. David Skinner, Country Director for Save the Children, Pakistan.


The 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition was launched in Dhaka on July 2, 2013. The event was hosted by icddr,b in collaboration with the National Nutrition Services of the Government of Bangladesh and Save the Children. There has been reduction in child underweight and anemia over the past decade, although stunting and wasting rates are still high. Micronutrient deficiencies are also common among children and women. The launching event served as a major nutrition advocacy platform for the country, and helped catalyze sustained efforts to improve public health nutrition in Bangladesh.


The Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), hosted a regional convening in Guatemala City which was broadcast through the web to seven other INCAP countries (Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) who coordinated national meetings for the launching. The other Latin America countries accessed the event through the web. The Lancet Series author Dr. Reynaldo Martorell presented and discussed Series findings and the call to action.

In The News


A selection of coverage and commentary on The Lancet’s 2013 Nutrition Series