Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Which WASH interventions matter most for improving child growth?

In March I had the opportunity to join a panel of researchers at the WHO to discuss strategies for improving child growth and nutrition in urban India.  Throughout the 2-day workshop many references were made to the WASH Benefits and SHINE studies, which are ongoing randomized controlled trials of water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition interventions in Kenya, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. 

At the WHO workshop most WASH researchers agreed that handwashing is effective and cheapaccess to toilets significantly reduces stunting in young children, and water delivered close to the home is a foundation of health and well-being. But it's difficult to say conclusively which interventions matter most for child growth without knowing the results of SHINE and WASH-B. 

Some early indications of the SHINE trial's progress were published last December, and rumor has it the much anticipated findings of WASH-Benefits will be shared this year at the ASTMH Annual Meeting.  Even so, a new joint publication by the WHO, UNICEF and USAID makes a strong case for integrating WASH interventions into nutrition programs to improve health outcomes for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

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