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Alive & Thrive releases endline survey results from Bangladesh and Viet Nam

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Alive & Thrive releases endline survey results from Bangladesh and Viet Nam

Findings show that behavior change programs can be delivered at scale to improve infant and young child nutrition

BOSTON—March 29, 2015—The Alive & Thrive initiative released endline survey results showing significant improvements in infant and young child feeding practices in Bangladesh and Viet Nam as a result of its comprehensive behavior change programs. Alive & Thrive—an initiative to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth and development through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices—presented the findings today at the Experimental Biology 2015 annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

Results from the endline survey, conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, show that effective interventions can be delivered at scale to improve infant and young child nutrition. In Bangladesh, the initiative’s comprehensive program—consisting of advocacy, interpersonal communication and community mobilization, mass communication, and strategic use of data—led to rapid improvements in seven breastfeeding and complementary feeding behaviors critical for child growth and development. From 2010 to 2014, the percentage of infants under six months who were exclusively breastfed (given only breastmilk) increased from 49 to 86 percent in areas that received the comprehensive intervention package (exclusive breastfeeding remained stable at around 50 percent in mass media only areas). Additionally, the proportion of children who consumed a diverse diet increased by 30 percentage points.

In Viet Nam, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding (initially lower than 20 percent) nearly tripled in areas where Alive & Thrive initiated high quality interpersonal counseling services in health facilities in addition to a mass media campaign. In the areas that were exposed to mass media only, exclusive breastfeeding increased from 18 to 28 percent during the same period. The Viet Nam program introduced an innovative social franchise model for delivering infant and young child nutrition counseling services. Findings demonstrate that the social franchise model can be successfully integrated into the health system.

In the two countries, Alive & Thrive conducted an estimated 3.3 million counseling sessions with mothers of children under two years of age, making it the first project of its kind to implement infant and young child feeding interventions at scale. National mass media campaigns allowed both countries to reach millions more mothers in a relatively short period of time. Engaging a range of audiences, including caregivers, families, community leaders, policymakers, and employers, helped shift the perception of social norms, raised confidence, and boosted adoption of beneficial feeding behaviors.

“We now know how to reach large numbers of mothers, children, and communities with early child nutrition interventions that work,” said Ellen Piwoz, Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds the Alive & Thrive initiative. “Other countries and programs can use Alive & Thrive’s proven framework to succeed in scaling up nutrition.”

Alive & Thrive tested program models and developed a flexible approach that can be adapted to different contexts. To learn what works, the initiative used data to drive decisions at all stages of programming and to improve on its program design. Rapid feedback loops allowed for quick learning about whether an approach was working or not, and responsive adjustments along the way. An extensive measurement, learning, and evaluation approach aimed to explain how behavior change happens.

The positive results in Bangladesh and Viet Nam will be realized in the health and productivity of communities and families for years to come. Improved nutrition in the first two years of life gives children a healthy start and improves their long-term growth, development, educational achievement, and future economic opportunities.

Additional results from Alive & Thrive endline surveys conducted in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Viet Nam will be available in the coming months.

Learn more about Alive & Thrive’s participation at the Experimental Biology 2015 annual meeting.

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About Alive & Thrive

Alive & Thrive is an initiative to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth and development through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices. Good nutrition in the first 1,000 days, from conception to two years of age, is critical to enable all children to lead healthier and more productive lives.

In its first five years (2009 to 2014), Alive & Thrive demonstrated that innovative approaches to improving feeding practices could be delivered with impact and at scale in three contexts: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Viet Nam. Alive & Thrive is now supporting others to scale up nutrition by applying and adapting tested, proven approaches and tools in contexts such as Burkina Faso, India, and Southeast Asia. With its emphasis on learning and innovation, Alive & Thrive is expanding its focus in Bangladesh to maternal nutrition and taking a more multisectoral approach in Ethiopia.

Alive & Thrive is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the governments of Canada and Ireland. The initiative is managed by FHI 360.