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Nutrition monitoring has been used to analyze the nutrition problems of nations and communities for more than twenty years. But researchers have found that the data are rarely used effectively. A new approach to the process may provide better results.
Nutrition-related problems cut across all classes, races, and socioeconomic groups. For the very poor, the issue frequently is simply getting enough to eat. The resulting undernourishment can lead to impaired physical growth, slowed intellectual development, and depleted energy levels. For the poor and the more affluent, the issue may be adopting the wrong diets, consuming foods high in fats and sugars and not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Such diets can result in obesity and related health risks such as hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.
Some problems are specific to mothers and children. Inappropriate weight gain during pregnancy can pose health risks to both mother and child. A low breast-feeding rate means many children are denied the nutrition benefits and immunity to diseases provided by breast milk.
"For years, planners, practitioners, and researchers have used nutrition monitoring to assess the problems of various populations in developed and developing countries with the goal of stimulating decision making at the national level," says David Pelletier, an associate professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. Pelletier has been involved in nutrition surveillance, or "monitoring," since coming to Cornell in 1984. The strategy had first been developed ten years earlier following the world food crisis of 1974.
"During the food crisis, international donors …