The development of global guidelines is one of WHO’s core functions. A rigorous process ensures that WHO guidelines are developed using best practices and making appropriate use of evidence.
Process for developing nutrition guidelines at WHO
WHO Steering Committee for Nutrition Guideline Development
The process for developing nutrition guidelines starts with the WHO Steering Committee for Nutrition Guideline Development. This Steering Committee oversees and guides the development of nutrition guidelines. It also provides overall supervision of the guideline development process.
The Steering Committee was established in 2009 and is led jointly by the WHO Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD) and the WHO Department of Research Policy and Cooperation. Members include representatives from all departments in WHO with an interest in the provision of scientific advice in nutrition. These include the Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development, the Department of Reproductive Health and Research, and the WHO Global Malaria Programme.
WHO Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group (NUGAG)
The WHO Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group (NUGAG) assists in the development of guidelines for nutrition interventions. Its main roles are to review and assess the quality of available evidence to contribute towards new as well as existing WHO guidelines.
Systematic reviews and summaries of GRADE (grades of recommendation, assessment, development and evaluation) evidence are used to assess the overall quality of the evidence and for drafting the guidelines themselves. Draft recommendations are then discussed among the WHO Steering Committee for Nutrition Guideline Development and the NUGAG members.
The NUGAG includes experts from various WHO expert advisory panels and those identified through open calls for specialists. They are experts in the fields of nutrition, epidemiology, public health, paediatric medicine and programme implementation. Members also include methodologists, representatives of potential stakeholders and consumers.
WHO Guidelines Review Committee (GRC)
All WHO guidelines are approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee (GRC). The GRC ensures that WHO guidelines are of a high methodological quality and are developed through a transparent, evidence-based decision-making process.
The GRC reviews every WHO guideline twice during its development – once after the scope of the guideline has been defined at the initial planning stage, and again after the recommendations have been developed and before the document is published. The GRC is guided by the standards and procedures outlined in the WHO handbook for guideline development.
The Key External Experts and Stakeholders Panel
The Key External Experts and Stakeholders Panel is consulted on the scope of the guideline, the questions it addresses and the choice of important outcomes for decision-making. The Panel also reviews the completed draft guidelines.
The Panel consists of experts and stakeholders subscribed to the WHO micronutrients mailing list and the United Nations Standing Committee of Nutrition (SCN) mailing list. Input is also gathered through a public call for comments on the WHO nutrition web site.