What happens when you get nutrition scientists and nutrition program practitioners from around the globe together? It turns out these two groups rarely interact, resulting in both having less than a full picture of the barriers each face in implementing their work.

The OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness recently hosted the International Summit on the Nutrition of Adolescent Girls and Young Women. The summit brought together 67 delegates from 17 countries.

About half of the group represented the world’s leading nutrition scientists, while the other half represented major aid organizations, donor organizations and smaller groups working to implement nutrition programs for girls and women in developing nations. The two groups spent several days sharing what they do and learning from each other.

It turns out both groups ultimately want the same outcome – a healthier global population built through a focus on the nutritional status of girls and women. Maternal and child undernutrition is the underlying cause of some 3.5 million deaths annually and accounts for more than a third of the disease burden in children younger than five. We know that women who are healthy and well-nourished before and during pregnancy will have healthier children, resulting in a healthier population.

After three days of discussion, debate, and sharing of much good, nutritious food the delegates found several common threads had emerged, including a need to:

  • Empower young girls and women around the world
  • Keep girls in school
  • Delay marriage and first pregnancy
  • Drastically reduce adolescent pregnancy rates
  • Incorporate adolescent voices in the conversation about their health needs
  • Increase collection of data on adolescents to inform programs and policies
  • Determine the right nutrients and best delivery methods to improve nutrition

View the full list of specific action items here.

While many of these ideas are not new, looking at them through the lens of nutrition and long-term population health offers a new perspective and an increased urgency to act. The delegates left with a better understanding of each other’s work, and a focus on finding ways to implement strategies discussed during their time together.

Their next steps include developing a robust consensus statement to be published later this year. They also have plans to continue their conversations and further develop their working relationships in order to overcome the barriers of implementing the latest nutrition science into culturally appropriate, accessible and feasible programs and policies.