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Strengthening Systems Resource Review

The Strengthening Systems Resource Review is a selection of materials that will help you keep on top of research and developments related to strengthening systems for better nutrition. To see materials from earlier editions, or to view resources from across SPRING's technical areas, visit the Resource Review.

Research Articles
Recent findings from academic and peer-reviewed journals

Pérez-Escamilla, Rafael and Victoria Hall Moran. Maternal and Child Nutrition (July 2016). Vol. 12, Issue 3: 375–380.

In this editorial, the authors make the case for using complex analysis systems longitudinal research to understand how best to empower decision makers for scaling up effective breastfeeding programs. They note the availability of well-validated participatory decision-making tools for assessing baseline needs, including costs, as well as progress with their scaling-up efforts.  They argue that sound systems thinking frameworks and scaling-up models are now available to guide and research prospectively future scaling-up efforts that can be replicated, with proper adaptations, across countries.

Jones, A., Ejeta, G. Bulletin of the World Health Organization (March 2016). Vol. 94. 157-232.

Unifying the aspirations of the nutrition and sustainable agriculture communities presents a unique opportunity to align the goals of these sectors in a common cause. In this article, the authors make the case for integrative solutions that bring together the goals of agriculture and our aspirations for healthy diets. They emphasize the importance of the public health and nutrition communities fully integrating food systems approaches in the training of health professionals and policy makers alike.

Reports, Tools, and Other Related Materials
A diverse collection of programmatic materials and news

Degrees, March 2016

A common fallacy is that obesity is almost exclusively caused by individual choices. While personal choice is certainly a factor, it is not the most significant one. More evidence shows that systems changes are needed to combat the epidemic, but the existing fallacy undermines the support for systems changes. Social marketing holds the most potential to remove myths about obesity, having originally created some of them. The author encourages social marketers to carefully consider their role in promoting systems and environmental changes and individual behavior change within a system change approach.

ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership, August 2016

In order to achieve four out of the six Sustainable Development Goals, an additional $7 billion each year is needed on top of current levels of spending. ACTION’s scorecard provides a progress report for donors, and provides a baseline for future delivery of the amounts pledged at the 2013 Nutrition for Growth event. This chart provides a simple outline of what has been pledged and what is needed. It helps to hold countries and donors responsible to achieving these goals.

Generation Nutrition, March 2016

The amount was pledged at the 2013 London Summit is insufficient to achieve four of the six WHA targets, according to the authors of this article. Funding that has been pledged has often been for nutrition-sensitive interventions that only indirectly affect nutritional status. More is needed for nutrition-specific programs, and over a longer period of time. The authors recommend that donors work together with countries to ensure that new pledges are made for funding nutrition-specific programs.

Systems in Evaluation, March  2016

This blog provides a user-friendly related explanation of systems map and how they can be used. The author explains that for readers who are not visual learners, there are difference ways to present a systems map. Additionally, she suggests giving the audience the opportunity to write and draw on the map, or to create their own. Finally, the author provides links to resources and tools for creating a map.

World Bank, February 2016

A growing body of evidence shows strong connections between poor sanitation and stunting, and provides a basis for this paper’s focus on achieving better nutrition outcomes from both the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) perspective and the nutrition perspective. The authors explain that while there has been a lot of interest in this topic, there are still not very many policies in place and there are several challenges of implementation that must be overcome to ensure that WASH investments and policies are nutrition-sensitive.

International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications, June 2016

This toolkit was created to guide civil servants and parliamentary staff through an interdisciplinary approach to evidence informed policymaking. It includes four modules: Introduction to Evidence-Informed Policy Making, A Complete Search Strategy, Assessing Evidence, and Communicating Evidence. Each module contains a trainer’s manual and a series of corresponding practical handbooks.

Agrilinks, July 2016

Climate-smart agriculture interventions must take a “systems approach” in order to address a broad spectrum of issues. This video outlines the use of “participatory system dynamics modeling” to test assumptions about the relationships between agricultural activities and the impacts on the larger landscape. Often these assumptions are not well founded. Using this approach can help to validate assumptions and thus reprioritize efforts to have a greater development outcomes.

Sight and Life, January 2016

Site and Life Magazine features a focus on systems, and the linkages between agriculture and health in this issue. Through a variety of infographics, tools, and interviews with leading experts in the field it highlights the successes and improvements that have been seen in a systems approach to nutrition over the past few years. It also presents some of the challenges and solutions for the future. Topics include financing, food systems challenges, and nutrition for sustainable development.

Links to presentations, proceedings, and other meeting materials

SPRING, July 2016

SPRING's PBN case studies provide new evidence of the importance of good nutrition to both human and economic development and the critical role good governance and policy play in creating momentum for nutrition. The case studies explore how nutrition-related activities are prioritized and funded in Nepal and Uganda by stakeholders across multiple sectors. The study findings identify concrete drivers of change (barriers and enablers) in the prioritization of nutrition and its funding. The event included a discussion with experts in multi-sectoral nutrition planning, governance, and financing on how stakeholders can use this type of research to advocate within ministries, donor and UN agencies, and the private sector for better nutrition policies and funding.

Beam Exchange, June 2016.

The interaction between the public and private sector, reliance on donor funds, and extensive government relations are just a few of the challenges faced when developing health systems in these countries. Often there is a disconnect, with each sector lacking understanding on how the others work. It is necessary for all sectors to work together to achieve better health outcomes, but this disconnect can make progress difficult. This event report offers recommendations to all actors, with the aim to help private partnerships in developing countries to become more viable, and inform governments on policy strategies, and market practitioners to make health services more available to people living in poverty.

Websites to Watch
Places to keep checking for the information you need

Grounded in the belief that systems thinking is a new frontier with significant potential for strengthening health systems and building capacity, Systems Thinking for Capacity in Health (ST4C Health) seeks bring together health professionals, disseminate systems thinking ideas and methods, and ultimately eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity globally. The website includes a collection of resources for systems thinking and links to organizations involved in systems thinking and health.

Created to improve the coordination of national health system planning efforts, this website provides a “country-by-country overview of the national planning, health programmatic and project cycles, together with information on donor involvement and technical support, for the 195 Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO).” It was developed with the input from regional and sub-regional staff alongside WHO partners and is maintained by WHO in collaboration with partners.

This blog and accompanying guide, Introduction to Systems Thinking, and animation have been produced by Oxfam to demystify systems thinking, providing practical suggestions on how development workers can begin to incorporate and apply systems thinking to improve nutrition. Environmental factors and market factors can all have an effect on a person’s ability to support themselves. A systems approach recognizes all of these factors, and the documents supplementing this blog provide guidance on how to apply a systems approach in development.