26 Nov 2015

Toronto Event for the Global Nutrition Report

Lawrence Haddad GAIN

The Toronto launch of the GNR was organised by SickKids Research Centre, GAIN and the Micronutrient Initiative. The timing of the launch was good. A new Liberal government has just been elected and it is more concerned with social democratic issues, more committed to doing something about child poverty in Canada, and has a renewed commitment to mitigating climate change.

Delegates sat desks on a tiered platform, viewing a panel and speaker in front of large wide screen presentation projection at Global Nutrition Report 2015 Event Toronto

So what should the new government do on nutrition? My views, based on GNR analysis:

  • Domestically it needs to innovate in addressing overweight, obesity and diabetes.
  • Internationally it needs to—at a minimum—maintain its leading status among funders of nutrition specific interventions.
  • It also needs to increase its nutrition sensitive allocation which is low.
  • Finally it needs to do more to get more of its nutrition data into the international databases.

After my presentation, a great panel was posed questions by Prof. Zulfi Bhutta. The panel consisted of Amy Baker, Global Affairs Canada (formerly CIDA and DFAT-D), Dominic Schofield, GAIN, Joel Spicer, MI, Stanley Zlotkin, Sick Kids, and Jami Taylor, Johnson & Johnson.

Zulfi started out by asking the panelists what they would do differently in the next few years on nutrition? Joel focused on the need to talk to the unusual suspects outside of nutrition and gave a number of examples. Stan said Sick Kids would do more research on implementation science to improve programme delivery, Amy signaled a change in the way Canadian ODA would be used—less gap filling and more leveraging and technical assistance to crowd in other funding and make sure funding had the biggest impact possible. Dominic said GAIN was pursuing a more systems approach to its work, looking across sectors in a more comprehensive way. Jami said that J & J were incorporating nutrition in all their activities, realising that it can help all partners, employees and customers to fulfil their potential.

Then we went to questions from the floor: How do we deal with the double burden? How can we get governments to focus on nutrition when they have so many other priorities? How do we make the most of the Rio Nutrition for Growth Summit next August? How do we fill the funding gap?

Delegates sat as a panel at Global Nutrition Report 2015 Event Toronto

Answers: on double burden, embrace the complexity, but also look for (and do research on) interventions that can do “double duty” (e.g. breastfeeding, agricultural research on fruits, vegetables and pulses, and behaviour change in school about healthy diets); on funding, be creative and pilot social impact bonds (where government pays a private company only if the company achieves certain delivery targets) and miss no opportunity to integrate nutrition into any funding stream, wasting no potential contact point (Joel Spicer call this “using all the gears”); on focusing on nutrition, we need to make malnutrition something that governments care about because its population cares about it (via more CSO/NGO activism on malnutrition) and on the Rio summit, recognise that this is a major opportunity that must not be missed.

It was a very interesting evening. The meeting reinforced the sense that Canada will continue to be a leading player in global nutrition: via thought leadership, research, interventions, policy and investment. This is reassuring, because the nutrition community has to maintain and step up commitments to nutrition — both directly via its own resources and indirectly by influencing others to do so.

Lawrence Haddad is a Co-Chair of the Independent Expert Group for the Global Nutrition Report.