The International Union of Nutritional Sciences, committee on nutrition and anthropology
The International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) Committee
II/6 on Nutrition and Anthropology was the conception point for this project.
Committee II/6 convened from 1990 to 1994 with the mandate to facilitate
solutions to food and nutrition problems through the application of
anthropological knowledge and techniques. To this end, the committee identified
its objectives to address vitamin A deficiency, and in particular the use of
natural food sources of vitamin A in communities to prevent deficiency. A
planning subcommittee met in Washington D.C. in November 1990, to define its
goals, and to set the framework of the project described here, which became an
activity of the committee.
The IUNS Committee II/6 was comprised of Isabel Nieves (Guatemala)
and Harriet Kuhnlein (Canada) as co-chairs; Gretel Pelto (USA, WHO), Richard
Young (Canada, IDRC), S. Abdel-Azim Wahba (Egypt), C. Santos-Acuin
(Philippines), P. Pushpamma (Singapore), K. Kalumba (Zambia), N. Ngokwey
(Benin), H. Creed-Kanashiro (Peru), and L.H. Martinez Salgado (Mexico). The
planning subcommittee became Kuhnlein, Pelto, Nieves, and Young; other committee
members who eventually participated in the project were Acuin, Pushpamma, and
Several committee members had previous experience with rapid
ethnographic assessments, and it was significant that the origins of the ideas
for the project germinated at the RAP conference in 1990 in Washington (see
Scrimshaw and Gleason, 1992). Committee member G. Pelto had substantial
experience in the creation of ethnographic assessments in health programs,
notably with the respiratory diseases manual in use with WHO (Pelto and Gove,
1992; Gove and Pelto, 1994; WHO, 1993a; 1994). It was therefore felt that
sufficient experience in this area existed within the committee.
Objectives and Funding
The planning subcommittee proceeded to define the objectives and
workplan of the project, with the first step being a literature review. With the
financial assistance of the International Nutrition Foundation for Developing
Countries (N. Scrimshaw), a literature review was completed and published
through McGill University with the participation of S.L. Booth, T. Johns, H.V.
Kuhnlein, and I. Nieves (Booth et al., 1992, Johns et al., 1992, Kuhnlein, 1992;
Kuhnlein and Nieves, 1992).
A one-year project proposal was funded by IDRC through McGill
University (H.V. Kuhnlein) to develop a community assessment protocol manual for
the identification of locally-available food sources of vitamin A. The protocol
was to identify food sources, describe current patterns of use, particularly in
relation to infants, children, and pregnant and lactating women, and to
elucidate the ecological, economic, and cultural factors that influence these
patterns. It would identify community beliefs and practices related to the signs
and symptoms of xerophthalmia and health care practices related to these. The
protocol was to be tested in five diverse areas of culture and ecology/food
system type to fine tune it and determine its generalizability. Field testing
was used to identify useful information resulting from the protocol for
implementing food-based vitamin A deficiency prevention programs.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the
International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries (INFDC) agreed to
jointly publish two volumes related to the project: Community Assessment of
Natural Food Sources of Vitamin A: Guidelines for Ethnographic Studies and
Culture, Environment and Food to Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency. Publication
planning and finalization was coordinated through the Centre for Nutrition and
the Environment of Indigenous Peoples of McGill University.
Persons Involved, Basic Activities and Timeline
With objectives and planning accomplished, funding was implemented
in 1993-1994. The persons finally contributing to the project were as follows:
· Planning: H.V. Kuhnlein, G. Pelto, R.
Young, P. Pelto, I. Nieves
· Initial field testing and creation of module sections
to the protocol manual: L. Blum, G. Pelto, T. Johns, S. Booth, H.V. Kuhnlein
· Literature review: S. Booth, T. Johns, H.V.
· Training workshop: P. Pelto, L. Blum
· Field test site supervisors: L. Blum (Niger), H.
Creed-Kanashiro (Peru), C. Santos-Acuin (Philippines), Li Wen Jun (China), P.
Pushpamma (India). Site visits by P. Pelto, H.V. Kuhnlein
· Revisions to protocol manual: P. Pelto, H. V.
Kuhnlein, G. Pelto, L. Blum
· Publications finalizing and submission: H.V.
The timeline of activities was as follows:
· Communications with IUNS Committee II/6,
identification of interested committee members, planning: 1990-1994
· Planning committee meetings in Washington, and by
conference call: 1990-1993
· Training workshop, McGill University: May, 1993
· Commitment by field supervisors, budget distribution:
· Field site testing: July, 1993-January, 1994
· Receipt of field test results: January, 1994
· Workshop on manual revisions: January, 1994
· Final revisions to manual received: January-June, 1994
· Submission of funding report and final draft of manual:
· Reports to scientific meetings:
IUNS: August, 1993
Experimental Biology (FASEB):
American Anthropology Association (AAA): November, 1994
· Chapters to companion volume received: June-December, 1995
· Publications: March,