e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Background to the eLENA project

Nutrition is a foundation for health and development. Better nutrition means stronger immune systems, less illness and better health. Good nutrition contributes to the achievement of key Millennium Development Goals, such as numbers 1, 4 and 5 that include an end to poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition in all its forms increases the risk of disease and early death. At one end of the spectrum, undernutrition – including low birth weight, suboptimal breastfeeding and micronutrient deficiencies – is an underlying cause in 35% of all deaths among children under five years old. At the other end, the health consequences of overnutrition and escalating obesity rates are dramatically increasing worldwide.

Low- and middle-income countries increasingly face a “double burden” of disease. They have to deal with the problems of undernutrition and communicable diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS while at the same time experiencing an upsurge of risk factors associated with noncommunicable diseases such as obesity and overweight, particularly in urban settings.

Interventions: why don’t they always work?

Although interventions to address these numerous nutritional problems have been identified, malnutrition is still a major public health problem globally. In part, this is because many interventions are either not implemented when they are needed, or they fail to reach a significant portion of the target population.

How eLENA will help

Access to the latest nutrition guidelines, recommendations and scientific evidence can help countries make appropriate choices to address their health and nutrition challenges. Decision-makers will also benefit from an understanding of the often complex biological rationales for each of these interventions, and the behavioural and contextual factors which could affect the success or adaptability of the intervention.

The WHO e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA) provides access to evidence-informed nutrition guidelines along with other key information and resources to help countries accelerate the implementation and scale-up of effective and safe nutrition interventions.

History of eLENA

The eLENA project was first initiated by the WHO Department of Nutrition for Health and Development in 2009. The project gained momentum in 2010, when the World Health Assembly passed a resolution urging Member States “to increase political commitment in order to prevent and reduce malnutrition in all its forms” and requesting WHO “to strengthen the evidence base on effective and safe nutrition actions to counteract the public health effects of the double burden of malnutrition" (WHA 63.23).

New initiatives

A complementary web-based tool – currently in the planning stages – will provide access to information on the implementation of nutrition actions, allowing programme planners and project managers to contribute and retrieve information about different delivery options. GINA, or the Global Database on the Implementation of Nutrition Actions, will be an online, interactive, multilingual database on nutrition policy and interventions. Its objective is to provide countries with a tool to show which interventions are being carried out where, when, with whom, why and how. This data will stimulate discussion and help to identify overlaps as well as gaps.

Following the launch of GINA in summer 2012, visitors to the eLENA website will have direct access to GINA to see where and how the recommended actions are being implemented. Conversely, GINA users will have easy access to eLENA to read the evidence and rationales for nutrition actions being implemented.

GINA will be an interactive site with a Wiki approach allowing users from various organizations and agencies to update, comment or correct any previously entered information.

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