Gender and nutrition: Canadian knowledge partnership seeks to close the data gap

Photo: Nutrition International

OTTAWA ― A new collaboration between Nutrition International (NI), the University of Toronto and the Campbell Collaboration will strengthen the availability and use of high-quality, gender-sensitive data to improve nutrition for women, young children and adolescent girls in low-income countries.

The partnership will receive $750,000 CAD over two years to develop stronger and easier-to-use gender equality indicators of nutrition program delivery and performance. The new tools will be useful to generate timelier and better-quality data to guide program managers of gender-sensitive nutrition programs in several countries. This funding was granted through the newly-launched Canadian Collaborative for Global Health ― an initiative of the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) with support from Global Affairs Canada ― which connects civil society organizations and research institutions in meaningful partnerships to tackle difficult health challenges around the globe.

“Good nutrition and gender equality are mutually reinforcing: improving nutrition is critical to achieving gender equality, and in turn improving gender equality leads to better nutrition. However, there is still a significant lack of high-quality data to measure the interaction between nutrition programs and gender equality,” said Joel Spicer, NI’s President and CEO. “We are proud to be part of this innovative collaboration, which will help close the data gap on gender and nutrition, and increase global knowledge about what works for the people who need it most.”

The results of this work will support global knowledge sharing and scale-up of nutrition programs that better respond to gender inequalities. Through this partnership, the Campbell Collaboration will lead a series of systematic reviews of women’s empowerment and nutrition interventions to identify programming strategies that effectively reduce gender inequalities and improve nutrition outcomes for women, young children, and adolescent girls. In addition, a gender index specific to nutrition programs will be created to test and measure the synergy between gender equality and nutrition using existing data from national surveys conducted in Sub-Saharan Africa to derive gender equality and empowerment indicators.  This process, to be conducted in Ethiopia and Senegal, will identify which indicators of women’s empowerment are most influential on nutrition outcomes, and help to demonstrate how gender equality improvements can be linked to better nutrition outcomes for women, adolescent girls and children.

The University of Toronto will continue to support NI in its efforts to strengthen its Nutrition Interventions Monitoring Survey (NIMS) toolkit, a set of survey tools with built-in quality metrics used to generate faster and lower cost coverage data on nutrition programs ― allowing for more rapid course correction and improved program results. As part of the project, the toolkit will be expanded to include a rapid assessment module and gender indicators will be tested in coming NI surveys to build evidence for gender-sensitive nutrition programming. The gender indicators developed by the Campbell Collaboration will be incorporated into the NIMS toolkit.

“In our ongoing partnerships with NI we have been able to apply the institutional resources and technical competencies of a leading public university to a range of persistent monitoring problems that weaken efforts to secure nutrition for all women, young children and adolescent girls” said Daniel Sellen, a professor who will lead the rapid assessment work and directs the Joannah and Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition at the University of Toronto. “We will develop a coherent set of gender-sensitive rapid nutrition program monitoring tools that can strengthen decision-making and guide programs aiming to improve both gender equality and lifelong nutrition”.

The Campbell Collaboration will provide technical direction and supervise graduate students and research fellows to conduct systematic reviews and develop gender equality and nutrition.

“The vision of the Campbell Collaboration is ‘better evidence for a better world,’ and this new partnership with NI and the University of Toronto is a great example of how we can put our vision into practice. We’re excited to be part of this innovative partnership that will use the evidence we develop to improve the lives of women, young children, and adolescent girls in some of the most challenging circumstances,” said Campbell Collaboration Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Vivian Welch.

Serving as overall project coordinator, NI will provide its expertise in collecting rigorous and relevant data to support nutrition implementation research, program evaluation, national nutrition information systems (surveillance), and knowledge translation for nutrition policy and financial decision making. NI will also leverage its long-standing relationships with the governments of Ethiopia and Senegal to encourage the collection of gender-related data and the application of findings in policy and program decisions in these countries.

This partnership is one of several which are receiving funding as part of the first Canadian Collaborative for Global Health.

By Nutrition International 

Founded in 1992, Nutrition International is a global organization dedicated to delivering proven nutrition interventions to those who need them most. Working in partnership with countries, donors and implementers, our experts conduct cutting-edge nutrition research, support critical policy, and integrate nutrition into broader development programs. In more than 60 countries, primarily in Asia and Africa, Nutrition International nourishes people to nourish life.