Chytanya Kompala is currently completing a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with PATH, a global health and innovation NGO based in Seattle, WA. Chytanya holds a Master of Science in Public Health degree in Nutrition from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In this blog post, Chytanya writes about her experience working with PATH’s Nutrition Innovation team to explore the effects of tobacco use during pregnancy on childhood stunting. She is also currently drafting a policy brief to highlight interventions that could help to reduce chronic undernutrition.
Stepping Out of the Silo: Advocating for Interdisciplinary Approaches to Undernutrition
By Chytanya Kompala
Global nutrition is my passion. In graduate school, I was trained to think about nutrition problems in the developing world from a certain perspective. My training came from nutritionists and did not emphasize collaboration with sectors outside of nutrition. My peers have been nutritionists. All of my previous work experiences have been completely focused on nutrition. As a global health nutritionist and researcher, I was eager to work with the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH and gain an insider’s perspective into one of the most reputable global health NGOs in the world. When I started my fellowship in February 2017, I was expecting something similar to my previous nutrition-centric experiences. I was anticipating joining a team that worked similarly to other organizations in this field. I was expecting to rely on my existing knowledge of nutrition. Instead, I had an entirely different experience. I found myself learning so much about new topics from a team with diverse backgrounds and next-generation ideas.
The issue of chronic undernutrition (technically known as stunting) has been at the center of my fellowship research. Chronic undernutrition among children under age five is one of the largest burdens of malnutrition and is an unavoidable topic in the developing world.
Chytanya Kompala at the PATH 40th anniversary celebration in Seattle, WA (courtesy of Kelsey Miller)
Early this spring, I attended a presentation at PATH’s headquarters by Roger Thurow, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the author of The First 1,000 Days. “Stunted children have a life sentence to under-performance and under-achievement,” he said. As Thurow described, stunting during childhood impacts a child for the rest of his or her life. Long-term consequences of stunting include reduced educational attainment, impaired cognitive function and development, poor economic productivity, and even an increased likelihood of having stunted children. Stunting is an intergenerational condition that hinders the growth and development of individuals, families, communities, and even countries.
The Lancet 2013 Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition was a seminal set of papers that acted to coalesce the nutrition and development communities around a set of proven, “nutrition-specific” interventions to address stunting. They estimated that scaling up 10 nutrition interventions to 90 percent coverage would reduce stunting by about 20 percent. While this finding gave the community renewed focus, it also highlighted how much we still do not know about the complex determinants of stunting. What about the remaining 80 percent?
One of the aims of PATH’s Nutrition Innovation team is to help answer that question. During my six months at PATH, I worked on two projects: an ongoing systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of tobacco use during pregnancy and its association with stunting, and drafting a corresponding policy brief on “nutrition-sensitive” risk factors that may be contributing to stunting—those that were not highlighted in The Lancet 2013 Series.
I never thought that my research would be focused on tobacco use. At first, I was skeptical about researching this topic. I have no background or experience working on tobacco, and I was unsure about how relevant tobacco would be to stunting. But through our meta-analysis, my eyes have been opened to the idea that much more cross-sectoral research still needs to be done to explore the intersection and overlap between different health and development issues and nutrition outcomes.
“Meet the Future” panelists discuss innovation and diversity at the PATH 40th anniversary celebration in Seattle, WA (courtesy of the author)
Working on the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH has taught me an invaluable lesson about the interdisciplinary nature of global health and nutrition. Too often, people try to do great work in silos. Echoing this message at PATH’s 40th anniversary celebration in May, a diverse panel of innovators and young leaders discussed the importance of making connections across sectors to solve the world’s problems. By working collaboratively and moving away from the “business as usual” mindset, we can achieve greater impact. Thinking about stunting outside of the “nutrition-specific” lens enables us to better understand the complex and broad, sweeping determinants of the problem. Our research on tobacco is just one example of this.
We are currently in the process of drafting our policy brief with the aim of broadening the conversation about stunting to address issues beyond the nutrition interventions highlighted in The Lancet. We are exploring sound evidence on additional determinants of stunting, such as household air pollution, tobacco use, hygiene and sanitation, education, and delaying the first birth and birth spacing.
Part of our message is to advocate for more interdisciplinary approaches among people working in different sectors—to encourage researchers, program implementers and policymakers to expand their approach to include cross-sector indicators in their research and programs. Many health and development studies and programs do not include stunting as an outcome of interest, even when evidence indicates that there may well be an effect. We hope our work can help guide the conversation out of the box and lead to new, creative, and interdisciplinary approaches to end undernutrition around the world.
I am grateful for this fellowship and exposure to the great work of the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH. My time here has greatly expanded and shaped my perceptions and approach to thinking about global nutrition.
Through the Hilton Prize Coalition Collaborative Models Program, Landesa and BRAC co-authored the collaborative issue brief, “Land Tenure as a Critical Consideration for Climate Change-Related Displacement in Slow-Onset Disaster Zones.” To coincide with World Environment Day, Jennifer Duncan, Sr. Attorney and Land Tenure Specialist (Landesa), and Ashley Toombs, External Affairs Manager (BRAC), wrote a recent op-ed that highlights recommendations from the issue brief on climate change-related displacement and slow-onset disaster zones.
This piece was originally published by Devex.
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is connecting people to nature. There is no greater example of that connection than climate change-related displacement caused by slow-onset disasters.
The world will see more frequent and more devastating natural disasters as the effects of climate change intensify. This includes both rapid-onset disasters, such as hurricanes, and slow-onset disasters such as long-term droughts and famines. Slow-onset climate change impacts are often not apparent until it is too late, and they will increasingly disrupt the lives of rural people in the global south, especially the poor, women and children.
Right now, there are 1.4 million children at risk of death from malnutrition, due in part to severe drought caused primarily by climate change. According to United Nations estimates, nearly 20 million people at risk due to famine or near-famine conditions in four countries — South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.
Dr. Dave Ross, President and CEO; The Task Force for Global Health “Gateways to Health”
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April 25, 2017 marks the two-year anniversary of the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal. As the country continues to rebuild, we’d like to take a minute to recognize the communities across Nepal and the 12 Hilton Prize Laureates working in country – BRAC, Clubhouse International, ECPAT, Handicap International, Heifer International, HelpAge International, IRC, IRCT, MSF, Operation Smile, Partners in Health and SOS Children’s Villages.
This earthquake in Nepal and the ongoing efforts to rebuild were the focus of the Hilton Prize Coalition’s first production under the Storytelling Program. Below is a recap of some of the stories from the past year that have helped us think about effective approaches to disaster preparation, as well as some updates on the work being done today.
FILM: On Shifting Ground
The pilot project highlighted six member organizations that were among those who mobilized in response to the earthquake: BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, HelpAge International, Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages. The resulting film, “On Shifting Ground,” has been shown around the world to initiate dialogue around rethinking approaches to disaster response and ways to build community resiliency. Click here to view the film.
Through the production of the film, the organizations gained greater familiarity with one another’s capacities in the region and formed a framework for collaboration that continues to this day. In March 2017, more than 10 organizations met in Kathmandu to establish protocols, building on the lessons learned and their collective experiences in the sector. Read more in this blog post by the Coalition’s Collaboration Coordinator in Nepal, Sumnina Shrestha.
BLOG SERIES: Voices from Nepal
Director Steve Connors, along with members of Storytelling crew, shared insights about their experiences during the February 2016 filming process and beyond, highlighting especially the collaborations that have since taken root.
• Part 1: Reminders, by Steve Connors
• Part 2: Bringing Together a Wonderful Crew, by Steve Connors
• Part 3: This Humanitarian Spirit, by Steve Connors
• Part 4: The Beauty of Our Journey, by Rasmi Dangol
• Part 5: Returning to Normal, by Amul Thapa
• Part 6: A Brighter Future, by Amul Thapa
• Part 7: Learning to Be a Child, by Amul Thapa
• Part 8: A Ray of Hope, by Sunil Pokhrel
We were also pleased to learn about BRAC’s ELA program in Nepal that is empowering girls today, in this blog post written by Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Sheetal Tuladhar.
VIDEOS: Leading Thoughts
Hilton Prize Laureate organizations recognize how critical preparation and collaboration between organizations are to effective disaster preparation. Here are two clips from the “Leading Thoughts’ series that address how these played out in Nepal. Click on the links or watch them on the Story Wall.
Lynn Croneberger, CEO; SOS Children’s Villages-USA “Collaboration through Storytelling”
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Jeff Meer, Executive Director; Handicap International U.S. “Collaboration and Crisis”
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On April 13, 2017, the Hilton Prize Coalition and Atlas Corps, an international network of nonprofit leaders that facilitates overseas fellowships, co-hosted the first Global Changemakers event in Washington, DC. Both collaborative Fellows Programs were celebrated at the event, which brought together the two groups for an evening of networking.
With more than 70 in attendance, the evening consisted of remarks by Atlas Corps and Hilton Prize Coalition representatives, as well as stories from two Fellows, Maxi Salmon and Stefania Doebbel. Guests included staff and partners from both organizations, Fellows from both programs, mentors, and young professionals from the DC area interested in international affairs and nonprofit innovation. The themes of the event, which included the importance of coalition building and the value of expanding networks to create social change, resonated throughout the evening.
Maxsalia (Maxi) Salmon, an Atlas Corps Fellow from Jamaica currently serving at the Council on Foundations, shared her appreciation for the new partnership and the global footprint that will continue to grow from this effort. She shared with the audience reasons why this collaboration is remarkable, saying it is incredibly important that “both initiatives focus on building the next generation of dynamic leaders in the social sector.”
(Maxi Salmon speaking at the Global Changemakers Networking event, April 13, 2017)
Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Stefania Doebbel shared the impact of her Fellowship through stories of LGBTI youth she met during her placement. At Covenant House International, Stefania is creating culturally sensitive training curricula for staff in Central America that is meant to build the capacity of staff service for LGBTI youth. She also highlighted the influence this placement has had on her professional development, ultimately allowing her to learn more about human rights policies in Central America.
A blog post by Stefania will be published soon on the Hilton Prize Coalition website.
Visit the Coalition’s Flickr album to view more images from the event.
Lynn Croneberger, CEO; SOS Children’s Villages USA. “Not Only Children”
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BLOG: HPC #partners in Nepal recently joined hands for disaster preparedness and response at workshop in #Kathmandu
“If you want to build partnerships and coalitions, you have to shine the light on your partners and not on yourself.” @TFGH President Dave Ross talks #HiltonPrize, partnerships, and some of the biggest global health challenges today: http://ow.ly/fixv30ae21j