The Potential Contribution of the Health System to Reducing Stunting in SUN Countries

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Background: The global nutrition community has called for a multisectoral approach to improve nutritional outcomes. While most essential nutrition interventions are delivered through the health system, nutrition-sensitive interventions from other sectors are critical. Objective: We modeled the potential impact that Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) interventions delivered by the health system would have on reaching World Health Assembly (WHA) stunting targets. We also included results for targets 2, 3, and 5. Methods: Using all available countries enrolled in the SUN movement, we identified nutrition interventions that are delivered by the health system available in the Lives Saved Tool. We then scaled these interventions linearly from 2012 up to nearly universal coverage (90%) in 2025 and estimated the potential impact that this increase would have with regard to the WHA targets. Results: Our results show that only 16 countries out of 56 would reach the 40% reduction in the number of stunted children by 2025, with a combined total reduction of 32% across all countries. Similarly, only 2 countries would achieve the 50% reduction in anemia for women of reproductive age, 41 countries would reach at least 50% exclusive breastfeeding in children under 6 months of age, and 0 countries would reach the 30% reduction in low birth weight. Conclusions: While the health system has an important role to play in the delivery of health interventions, focusing investments and efforts on the health system alone will not allow countries to reach the WHA targets by 2025. Concerted efforts across multiple sectors are necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-169
Number of pages11
JournalFood and nutrition bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Scaling Up Nutrition
  • WHA targets
  • global policy
  • maternal and child nutrition
  • modeling
  • stunting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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