Introducing Project Sprout

According to the WHO, malnutrition accounts for 45% of deaths in children under 5 years old worldwide. While current treatments are effective — more than 70% of children treated for acute malnutrition are cured — fewer than 15% receive the full care they need. Moreover, the focus on combatting malnutrition has been on treatment, yet prevention has largely been under-resourced.

Malnutrition is a complex and interdependent issue, so what if we tried breaking it down and mapping it from the ground-up instead? What could we find? This is why we’re excited to kick off Project Sprout, in collaboration with IRC’s Health Unit, and the No Wasted Lives Coalition, to uncover systemic innovations for both treating and preventing acute malnutrition. Our goals build on initial research from Jeanette Bailey and Casie Tesfai and are two-fold:

  1. Build a mathematical model to evaluate the potential of current interventions in improving outcomes for children with acute malnutrition.
  2. Despite promising treatments, that alone will not significantly reduce the number of children affected. We will also use design thinking to generate new ideas for preventing malnutrition with experts and analogous thinkers.

The blueprint for Airbel’s approach has three leverage points: existing robust evidence, analogous experiences from other contexts, and potential users.

Our team is spending the next few weeks in Senegal and Liberia to interview nutrition experts and IRC Liberia staff, check out local innovation hubs and social enterprise incubators, and meet creative people who can inspire us. Some of the big questions we’ll be asking are: How can we support communities to take action in acute malnutrition prevention? How can we help parents detect signs of malnutrition early? How can we help implementers anticipate acute malnutrition? And how can income-generating activities focus on improving access to better nutrition?

As we research, test, and prototype, we’ll uncover unexpected challenges and new opportunities. Follow us along on our journey the next several weeks, and we’ll be back with postcards from the field!

Until next time,

Team Sprout

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