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News and notes

FAO studies on urban food demand

Rapid urbanization is making new and increasing demands for food on the agricultural sector. Quantitative and qualitative differences exist between urban and rural food consumption patterns. Dietary energy intakes appear to be lower among urban people, especially low-income groups. The urban diet emphasizes low-cost, ready-to-eat or easily prepared foods, introducing concerns about food safety and nutritional adequacy. During 1986 FAO initiated a series of studies which address the policy and programme issues involved. An interregional FAO/UNFPA project is supporting investigations by local institutions in Bogota, Caracas, Abidjan, Dakar, Yaoundé, Kinshasa, Jakarta, and Manila over a two-year period with a US$400,000 budget.

The results of these studies will provide information useful for national policy-makers and planners in the concerned countries and in countries with similar problems. National seminars will be held in several of the study countries at which the results will be discussed, and an expert consultation on the subject will be organized during 1988.

Nutrition and primary health care workshop report

A workshop on "Methodological Issues in the Anthropological Assessment of Programmes in Nutrition and Primary Health Care,'' the third meeting of the UNU Nutrition and Primary Health Care (N/PHC) Research Network, was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 16-20 February 1987. It was attended by 15 members of the network, from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, who are all presently engaged in fieldwork related to the anthropological assessment of N/PHC programmes in their respective countries, together with representatives from UNICEF, other international development agencies, and universities. Dr. Ranjit Senaratne was host for the workshop, which was sponsored by the UNU, UNICEF, and WHO.

After the inauguration of the workshop by the Minister of Health of Sri Lanka, Dr. R. Atapattu, each researcher reviewed progress and problems encountered to date in their on-going field activities, with special emphasis on methodological aspects of their work. This research is being carried out largely in rural regions of the world. Concentration is on both rural household-level perceptions of N/PHC programmes and health practitioners' perceptions and activities; thus both patient and practitioner perspectives are obtained.

The information provided in the country-specific summaries formed the basis for the following general discussions on: -conceptual issues: key concepts of research such as health-seeking behaviour, decision-making, etc.; cognition and behaviour; symbolic interaction;
-methodological issues: the RAP (rapid assessment procedures) approach; field techniques of participant-observation, structured interviewing, focus groups, etc.; quantitative and qualitative data analysis;
-substantive issues: quantitative and qualitative description and generalization; macro-level/micro-level linkages between the health bureaucracy and the local communities; community participation
-policy issues: the involvement of policy-makers in the research process; dissemination of research findings; influencing policy-making; researcher/health provider/user interactions.

Small task forces of workshop participants then took the following actions in four major areas: -Training: Basics for the training of other local researchers to conduct N/PHC anthropological assessment utilizing the RAP approach were developed.
It was decided to establish an RAP newsletter; regional meetings for Asia, and Latin America were also planned.
-Work plan:
Schedules for various publications of research findings were set forth.
-Phase integration:
Some guidelines were provided for integrating the findings from the first phase of the research, concerning household-level perceptions of N/PHC programmes, with the second phase, which concerns health practitioners.

A further refinement of the RAP methodology was obtained from the discussions of this lively workshop and is presented in detail in the volume Rapid Assessment Procedures for Nutrition and Primary Health Care: Anthropological Approaches to Improving Programme Effectiveness, by Susan Scrimshaw and Elena Hurtado (jointly published by the United Nations University, UNICEF, and the UCLA Latin American Center, Los Angeles, Calif., USA, 1987).

Recently the first issue of RAP News was published in July 1987 and distributed internationally.

The following countries are represented in the UNU
N/PHC network:

-in Asia: India, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,Thailand;
-in Africa: Kenya, Malawai, Nigeria, Somalia, Zaire;
-in Latin America: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador,Guatemala.

Previous meetings of the network were held in Geneva in 1984 and in Bellagio, Italy, in 1985. The final meeting of the network will be held in July 1988 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, in conjunction with the 12th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences.

International Dietary Energy Consultancy Group

Thirty scientists from 15 countries met in Guatemala City, 37 August 1987, for the first meeting of the International Dietary Energy Consultancy Group (IDECG ).

The IDECG was established a year earlier under the sponsorship of the UNU and the IUNS and with the endorsement of the SON. Its objectives are:
-the compilation and interpretation of relevant research data on the functional and other consequences of deficiency, change, or excess of dietary energy; -the identification of related research needs and priorities and the promotion of needed research;
-the publication of scientific and policy statements and other information on the significance of chronic deficiencies and excesses of dietary energy;
-the identification and promotion of appropriate and practical means of corrective action.

Chronic energy deficiency was the focus of the Guatemala meeting. State-of-the-art papers were presented on the effects of chronic energy malnutrition on behavioural development (E. Pollitt), the effects of chronic energy deficiency on stature, work capacity, and productivity (G. B. Spurr), socioeconomic consequences of and responses to food deprivation (R. B. Thomas, M. Immink, and B. To -run), seasonality in energy metabolism (A. Ferro Luzzi), chronic energy deficiency and the effects of energy supplementation (N. G. Norgan), research related to metabolic adaptation to low energy intake (W. P. T. James), and maternal energy requirements during pregnancy and lactation (J. V. G. A. Durnin). Research needs and priorities in all these areas were discussed.

This information was supplemented by reports on ongoing or recently completed studies in India (J. V. G. A. Durnin and V. Shetty), Benin (J. van Raaij), Ethiopia, (A. Ferro-Luzzi), the Gambia (A. Prentice), Colombia (J. C. Reina), Guatemala (M. Immink and B. Torún), the Philippines (P. de Guzman and L. Adair), Indonesia (M. A. Husaini), Egypt (O. Galal), and Mexico (G. Pelto and L. Allen).

On the third day, the participants worked in three groups preparing reports on available knowledge, policy implications, and needed research on how chronic energy deficiency can affect pregnancy, lactation, and childhood, work capacity and work performance, and social and economic development. One of the working groups dealt with the structure, function, and financing of the IDECG.

State-of-the-art papers and working group reports will be published.

Additional information on the IDECG can be obtained from B. Schurch, Secretary General of IDECG, c/o The Nestle Foundation, P.O. Box 581, 1001 Lausanne, Switzerland.


Documents available

Work continues toward the goal of making food composition data available, consistent, and compatible. Much of this work involves development of documents that are produced by the secretariat or task forces, presented to and reviewed at meetings, and then distributed generally to those interested for critical comment.

INFOODS (the International Network of Food Data Systems) has, or will soon have, complete drafts of the following documents available for review, and would especially like to send copies to individuals who are interested in critically reviewing them.
-"International Directory of Food Composition Tables"-listing of food composition tables used around the world. March 1987 edition available on request.
-"Use, Management and Significance of Food Composition Data" -description of food composition data from the viewpoint of the user. Publication October 1987.
-"Guidelines for the Production, Management and Use of Food Composition Data" -description of how to put together a food table from the viewpoint of the data generator. Penultimate draft in hand. -"Identification of Food Components for INFOODS Data Interchange"
-This document includes suggested tagnames and description of food components that could be used for data interchange. Initial draft distributed for review, awaiting responses.

Drafts of the following documents are in final stages of preparation. Those who are interested in them should send their names to the secretariat; the documents will be sent when they are available.
-"Compiling Data for Food Composition Databases" -guidelines for choosing (and estimating and manipulating) the data that go into a food composition database. Being revised, new draft expected in autumn.
-"Facets of the Descriptions of Foods"-a guide to the aspects of "foods" which should be considered when describing them for the purpose of a food composition database. Final draft being prepared, expected in autumn.

Materials are being prepared in the following additional areas. Preliminary, and sometimes very technical or incomplete, documents can be made available on request.
-Guidelines and suggestions for ways to describe the data contained in a food composition table or database.
-Description of an interchange scheme for use in archiving and interchanging food composition data, including description of structural tags and mechanisms for defining new data tags.
-Outline and discussion of topics to be considered in setting up INFOODS regional centres/systems.

For any of the above, write to: INFOODS Secretariat, Bldg., 20A-226, MIT, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

Meetings held

The third EUROFOODS conference was held at the National Food and Nutrition Institute in Warsaw, Poland, 2328 May 1987, as a satellite conference to the Fifth European Nutrition Conference (20-23 May). From all reports this was a successful meeting; details will be published as soon as they are received.

An OCEANIAFOODS conference, sponsored by the Australian Department of Health and attended by delegates from Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the South Pacific Commission, and Australia, was held at Canberra, 12-15 May 1987. The delegates to the meeting recommended the establishment of a collaborative network of groups active in the Oceania region in the production and management of food composition data. The aim of this network, to be formally called OCEANIAFOODS, would be to develop regional cooperation in the production, management, and use of food composition data. Initially the network would comprise Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific Commission, and any other country in the region wishing to participate. Additionally, OCEANIAFOODS would seek to establish specific liaison with INFOODS, ASIAFOODS, and relevant workers at the University of Hawaii. Ruth English, of the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health, was selected to be the convenor/chairman of the executive committee of OCEANIAFOODS for an initial period of two years. For additional information contact: Mrs. Ruth English, Chief Nutritionist, National Health and Medical Research Council, P.O. Box 100, Woden, A.C.T. 2606, Australia.

Call for papers

The Journal of Food Composition and Analysis is a new peer-reviewed scientific journal covering all scientific aspects of data on the chemical composition of human foods, with particular emphasis on analytical methods for obtaining that data; actual data on the compositor of foods; and studies on the manipulation, statistics, storage, distribution, and use of food composition data. The journal is sponsored by INFOODS as a United Nations University project. It will be published by Academic Press, with the first issue appearing in December 1987.

The editors are actively seeking high-quality manuscripts in the area of food composition and analysis. Authors are encouraged to submit manuscripts for publication to the editorial office at this time.

Please submit manuscripts and requests for additional information to: Dr. Kent K. Stewart, Editor, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA. (Telephone: (703) 961-7986.)

SCN news

The following actions and decisions were outcomes of the 13th session of the Sub-committee on Nutrition (SCN) of the UN Administrative Committee on Co-ordination (ACC), held in Washington, D.C., 2-6 March 1987.

The SCN approved a resolution on "Economic recession, adjustment policies and nutrition" which was forwarded, together with a four-point statement on the topic, to the ACC for consideration.

A proposal for expanding nutritional surveillance would continue to be developed and a meeting would be held in 1987 for recommending indicators.

The International Dietary Energy Consultative Group would take up consideration of issues surrounding the elimination of severe protein-energy malnutrition and reduction of infant/child mortality from it, in the light of the SCN consensus that strategies must continue to be based on prevention through social development and, in particular, primary health care.

Two workshops would be organized to follow up the achievements of the SCN Working Group on Nutrition in Agriculture, in particular the successful results of the 1984 workshop on plant breeding and nutrition with the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research Centers.

The SCN would pursue a proposal to hold a global symposium on nutrition programmes, and would circulate a paper on criteria for project selection.

A preliminary draft report on SCN research priorities would be referred to member agencies and to the consultative groups for anaemia, energy, iodine deficiency disorders, and vitamin A for revision, with follow-up activity in fostering research envisaged for bilateral agencies.

An Iodine Deficiency Disorders Working Group was formed, with J. P. Greaves of UNICEF as its 1987/88 Chairman, and will develop a 10-year programme of support for prevention and control of iodine-deficiency disorders.

The SCN offered suggestions to member agencies for a planned workshop on food and nutrition aspects of disaster response.

The SCN will assist UNU initiatives in preparing a conference on the behavioural consequences of iron deficiency.

Budgetary priorities for the SCN programme and secretariat during 1987/88 would be:
(a) reporting on the world nutrition situation, and resource flows relevant to nutrition,
(b) coordinating and assisting development of nutritional surveillance,
(c) preparing for the International Symposium on Nutritional Programmes,
(d) co-ordinating and developing research priorities,
(e) circulating information, including a trial newsletter.

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