2022: Celebrating our impact and partnerships

By Nadra Franklin, Managing Director of FHI Solutions.

2022 was challenging for many of us personally, professionally, and globally, with the interrelated impacts of COVID-19 recovery, climate change, the cost-of-living crisis, and with the upsetting escalation of conflict in the Ukraine. Yet despite this unprecedented set of global circumstances, it was also a year of swift change, unearthing old ways of doing things, and of hope.

At FHI Solutions, we have enhanced our efforts in response to a changing world subsequent changing funding climate to elevate our unique place in the market. Each of our three initiatives: 1,000 Days, Alive & Thrive, and Intake – Center for Dietary Assessment have been operating through network structures for years. Collaboration is in our collective DNA, while our leadership tends to follow a network leadership approach, prioritizing real time feedback and a collaborative approach to problem solving.

As such, I am proud to call ourselves an impact network – a group of people, networks, and initiatives working towards a common goal through decentralised, interconnected systems.

During these challenging times, I especially value the intrinsic nature of an impact network, which is built to challenge mainstream structures and source change by demonstrating new ways of doing things.

2022 gave us a chance to reflect on our vision and mission across FHI Solutions. While we strive for a world with optimal nutrition for everyone, everywhere, we realized that our mission is issue agnostic. Together we focus on finding root cause solutions to system wide challenges.

As part of this recalibration, we launched our website, which has also enabled us to spotlight our Innovation Incubator, and a range of pilots and scaled innovations that have originated with Alive & Thrive and been built with local and international partnerships. Through our Innovation Incubator, we work across sectors to accelerate solutions scaling, knowledge management, investment, and impact for nutrition.

This year, FHI Solutions made an investment in the INDDEX24 Dietary Assessment Platform, which consists of the open source Global Food Matters Database (FMDB) and the INDDEX24 Mobile App. The system, hosted by Intake, was designed for food and nutrition research, and provides tools for researchers in low- and middle-income countries to assemble and access dietary reference data and to conduct timely quantitative food consumption surveys with the INDDEX24 Mobile App.

In 2022, Alive & Thrive’s innovations have been internationally recognized for their service to health systems, such as Sahyog, a tech enabled system that strengthens the quality of healthcare through improved supportive supervision, strategic use of data and decentralized problem-solving in Gujarat, India and in Bangladesh. The app was one of ten winners of the MIT Solve Challenge, which celebrates front runners in social impact.

This September, together with Quang Ninh Hospital for Women and Children, Alive & Thrive East Asia Pacific won the First Prize at the Annual Technology and Innovation Awards. Organized by Viet Nam Union of Science & Technology and Quang Ninh Peoples Committee, the Award honored innovations in a Human Milk Bank for its contribution to medical development in Viet Nam.

I am happy to announce that Alive & Thrive received a global grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to expand dissemination of our maternal infant young child and adolescent nutrition evidence-based learning, as part of an institutionalization phase of work that will go until 2024. Under the grant, Alive & Thrive will continue to provide strategic and targeted technical assistance to optimize and institutionalize quality, scale up, and sustainability of programming relating to maternal infant young child and adolescent nutrition.

In Ethiopia, Alive & Thrive received an award from the BMGF to support government restructuring for more effective multisectoral governance structures. This work will be done simultaneously with Alive & Thrive’s continued support for the scale up of maternal and adolescent nutrition interventions in six regions and further research into reaching adolescent girls with nutrition and health services. We look forward to supporting the government of Ethiopia in the continued implementation of the Food and Nutrition Strategy and Seqota Declaration.

I am also delighted to announce that Alive & Thrive East Asia Pacific secured new funding from the Government of Ireland to accelerate progress on national and global nutrition targets in Cambodia, Laos, and Viet Nam and create a more equitable and enabling environment for nutrition. This year, together with governments and partners, we have been building the foundations for impact of this project by increasing the availability and utilization of data on the drivers of vulnerability, which informed a regional strategy and multi-year results framework to scale up effective implementation models.

At Intake, we continue to provide technical support to governments to improve the availability and quality of dietary data. What we eat is central to some of the world’s most pressing challenges and opportunities. Healthy diets contribute to individual well-being, economic growth, and planetary health and are at the heart of our global food system – a food system that has been built on many inequities and is facing continual and increased global pressures.

The Global Diet Quality Score (GDQS) is the first metric, validated for global use, and designed to reflect overall diet quality[i],[ii] The GDQS has been designed in response to the urgent need to support people to eat healthy diets, while the data can be used to monitor and evaluate progress towards achieving national nutrition goals.

To accompany the GDQS, we have developed an app to aid with data collection. The app provides a low cost, low burden method for collecting data on diet quality, as a solution to the lack of dietary data altogether, in some cases, making it possible to design evidence-informed programs and policies to address real-time needs. Intake is thrilled to be providing technical support for the use of the GDQS app in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nepal, and Nigeria.

We also launched the GDQS Toolkit to support governments and stakeholders as they consider if the GDQS and the GDQS app are well suited for their data collection and data use needs. We look forward to supporting the continued roll out of the GDQS by governments and researchers in 2023.

Meanwhile, preparations have been underway for the anticipated release of the Intake4Earth App in 2023, which is a separate app developed to respond for the need for population-based data collection on the environmental impact of diets. The app is designed to allow countries to use real time data to report on the environmental impact of diets through by tracking five indicators of planetary health: greenhouse gas emissions, land use, eutrophication potential, water use, and bio-diversity loss. The app also reports on the following population-level indicators with respect to the percentage of people consuming healthy diets; environmentally sustainable diets; and sustainable healthy diets.

I was encouraged to see that food systems were a major focus for the first time the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt. Going forward, data on the environmental impact of diets is an essential input into global climate targets.

1,000 Days led and participated in key global advocacy coalitions and partnerships to make nutrition a funding and policy priority in the United States and throughout the world.

2022 has been a notable year for U.S. based advocacy, with President Biden announcing $2.9 billion in additional funding to strengthen food security, including for humanitarian assistance and global development assistance at the Global Food Security Summit during the 77th United Nations General Assembly.

The 1,000 Days team identified the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (GMPTA) as a top priority to fight the crisis of global malnutrition in all its forms. We worked in coalition with colleagues to educate and inspire lawmakers to make it as strong as possible. From authoring letters to the House and Senate, lifting up the support of Congressional leaders as legislation made its way through committees and leading social media campaigns, we were thrilled to see the legislation pass and it was signed into law October 19, 2022.

In November, on the heels of the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in more than 50 years, The American Journal of Public Health released a special series that identifies opportunities to unlock the untapped potential of the 1,000-day window. With more than 15 authors, the series outlines the role of Early Childcare and Education (ECE) settings to strengthen overall support systems for low-income families and influence the healthy growth and development of children. It highlighted how to improve breastfeeding outcomes; new analysis on COVID’s impact for people who gave birth during the height of the pandemic; investments needed to achieve nutrition security; and new opportunities for pediatricians to better support families in their care with nutrition advice and access. Ultimately, by closing data gaps, enhancing promising programs, and strengthening policies we can unite around this powerful window of growth.

As the end of the year approached, 1,000 Days, in a leadership role on the Nutrition CEO Council , initiated and co-hosted an event on the side-lines of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit event with the African Development Bank, African Leaders for Nutrition, and the African Union Commission. The event elevated nutrition as a global priority and called for increased investments in Africa. It brought together ambassadors from African countries in the U.S.; the African Union Commission; the International NGO community, including Nutrition CEO Council members and U.S. government agency officials, in recognition that safeguarding nutrition is inseparable from the current global food and nutrition crisis.

Across FHI Solutions, we are uplifting neglected policy issues in support of women’s and girls’ nutrition. We are working with partners across sectors to define and build an Action Agenda to prioritize funding and actions and have had the privilege of participating and sharing this agenda at the annual Africa Day for Food Security and Nutrition at the African Union, as part of the Year of Nutrition, in Addis Abba, Ethiopia in October, and at the 22nd International Congress on Nutrition in Japan this December. Advocacy messages are being developed through local partnerships and with the support of our country offices in Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, and East Asia Pacific. We look forward to building momentum and co-curating this agenda with advocates into 2023, particularly during global moments, such as Women Deliver.

At a time when the world is impacted by so many interrelated and complex challenges, it can feel a little unnatural to step back and celebrate what we have achieved. Yet, as 2022 draws to a close, this is exactly what is needed. It’s time to heed hope in the face of global crisis that innovations and connections between people and across sectors can and do flourish.

I am struck by the diversity of what we have collectively achieved. Reflecting on our progress, and on our existing and new partnerships in 2022, gives me confidence that 2023 will be a year of tremendous growth and impact in the direction of our vision.

[i] Miller, V., Webb, P., Micha, R., Mozaffarian, D., & Global Dietary Database. (2020). Defining diet quality: a synthesis of dietary quality metrics and their validity for the double burden of malnutrition. Lancet Planet Health, 4(8), e352–e370. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(20)30162-

[ii] The GDQS was released in 2021 after Miller et al. (2020) were unable to identify a single diet quality metric that addressed the double burden of malnutrition.