|Food and Nutrition Bulletin Volume 18, Number 2, 1997 (UNU Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 1997, 118 pages)|
|Role of training for specific skills through short courses, workshops, and in-service training|
A large share of ill health in developing countries is related to nutrition. Data generated by both local institutions and international agencies confirm that malnutrition is a major cause of human suffering, especially in low-income countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One-third of young children in these countries are stunted because of undernutrition. One-half of all deaths among young children are, in part, a consequence of malnutrition. Forty percent of women in the developing world suffer from iron-deficiency anaemia, a major cause of maternal mortality and low-birthweight infants. One in four persons is at risk for cognitive deficits or disease due to iodine deficiency. In many developing countries, the number of malnourished persons continues to grow [I], although great efforts are being made to reduce malnutrition. Most of the burden of malnutrition is at least in part the legacy of the economic conditions and poverty in the households in which these persons live. However, prevention is not only possible, it is often relatively inexpensive.
The traditional response of health planners to malnutrition has been to carry out needs assessments, investigate the current situation, and project goals for the amelioration of the problem. Assessments include gathering information on the nutritional status of the population, factors affecting nutritional status, and the population's perceptions of nutrition-related health problems. On the basis of these assessments, a country usually designs nutrition training programmes and interventions . However, in many developing countries, institutions of nutritional science face problems in recruiting and retaining trained professionals and in building and monitoring sound physical and technical infrastructures. Further, rapid changes in technology demand a continuous updating of skills at all levels. This is a difficult task. Maintaining infrastructure, research, and administration to equal the task of keeping pace with rapidly changing scientific and communication methods is an area of concern. Unless addressed, these problems threaten to leave nutrition scientists from developing countries almost entirely out of the loop of global scholarly inquiry.
Fundamental needs include trained developing- country nationals to direct core graduate and undergraduate training in their fields; the use of technology to make linkages with researchers from other parts of the world; and the ability to predict future nutritional problems and trends so as to go beyond a mere documentation of the current nutritional status. Training in nutrition traditionally has concentrated on developing the capacity for documentation of nutritional status and use of this information to formulate and influence policy. However, the gap between nutrition policies and the implementation of programmes has not been effectively addressed by institutions in developing countries or through international collaborative work.