|Care and Nutrition - Concepts and Measurement (IFPRI, 1997, 56 p.)|
In the past 10 years the view has been firmly established that the eradication of child undernutrition depends on three factors: household and individual food security, access to health services and a healthy environment, and the adequate provision of behaviors that have the collective label of "care." These care behaviors - mostly but not exclusively provided by women - are exhibited in many domains, including food preparation and food storage, breast-feeding and the feeding of very young children, rest and diet for pregnant and lactating mothers, hygiene practices, diagnosis and health-seeking behavior for young children, and the psychosocial stimulation of children.
The goal of IFPRI's Food Consumption and Nutrition Division is to contribute to the reduction of food insecurity and malnutrition through the conduct of policy research and outreach on food access and nutrition issues in the developing world. As is well known, individual and household food security is a necessary but not sufficient condition for overcoming child malnutrition: access to a range of complementary nonfood resources is also crucial. IFPRI has long recognized this as evidenced by its work on the determinants of nutrition status and in the area of intrahousehold access to and control of resources. The first body of work confirms that when increases in household income are translated into improved food security, they are not automatically translated into improved access to health care, clean water, and more time for child care. The second body of work highlights the key role of women in the provision of household food security and good child nutrition.
Care is perhaps the most amorphous of the three factors underlying good child nutrition. If it is to be more explicitly incorporated into food and nutrition policy research, care needs to be measured in a concrete way. In this paper, a development psychologist, a nutritionist, and an economist review new developments in the conceptual evolution of care behaviors and identify indicators of resources for care and for selected care behaviors.
As an analytical construct, care is still new to many outside the immediate field of nutrition. They might ask, what is care and why is it important? For those in the field, care is problematic from the measurement point of view, particularly since the concept of care is rapidly evolving. They might ask, how are dimensions of care monitored for programmatic and analytical purposes? The goal of this paper is to provide an effective introduction to care for the former group and a useful summary of attempts to develop care indicators for the latter group.
Director Food Consumption and Nutrition Division