New Proposed Changes to UNICEF’s Conceptual Framework of Malnutrition Emphasize Support Needed to Help Children Thrive

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A recent article published in The Lancet Global Health by researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research and international development institute, presents a proposed revision of UNICEF’s framework of malnutrition and death to expand the focus on children beyond ensuring they survive, but also thrive. The authors, including Maureen Black, Chessa Lutter and Angela Trude, suggest that in addition to requiring support for child health and nutrition, UNICEF’s framework should also include opportunities for responsive caregiving relationships and for children to explore and learn within a secure and safe context.

“Our proposed revision, the conceptual framework of children surviving and thriving, captures the essential roles of health and nutrition as well as the additional components of nurturing care, including responsive care, learning opportunities, and security and safety to ensure that children grow and develop to their full potential,” said Maureen Black, PhD, Distinguished Fellow at RTI International and expert in early childhood development. “This strong evidence-based conceptual framework serves as an initial step to guiding policies and programs that will enable all children to survive and thrive.”

UNICEF’s seminal framework, developed in 1990, has functioned as a catalyst for policies, programs and research that have advanced health and nutritional practices for children worldwide, but the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has since brought global recognition that the future health, prosperity and freedom of children depend on their ability to form relationships, learn and ultimately contribute to society. Therefore, the proposed revised conceptual framework of children surviving and thriving takes into account the additional skills necessary for children’s development while maintaining basic interventions needed for children’s growth and nutritional status.

In addition to preparing for the SDGs, the proposed framework promotes equity by ensuring that all children receive the basic components of the framework with additional support when needed so that no child is left behind.

Read more about RTI’s work in global nutrition.

Read the full publication in The Lancet.