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Building a nutrition programme? Understanding how people behave is key

Undernutrition contributes to up to 45% of child deaths in African countries. At the same time, child obesity rates have doubled between 2006 and 2016. More than 40% of women of reproductive age are anaemic. And 13.7% of infants have low weight at birth. Stunting in the African region is 30.7% – above the world average of 22%.

In 2020, over a fifth of Africa’s population faced hunger; 346.4 million people experience severe food insecurity; and 452 million experienced moderate food insecurity.

Nutrition programmes have been supporting families in Africa for decades. But many of these programmes have inconclusive results.

As health psychologists and behavioural scientists, we believe this is because the programmes don’t focus on fitting into families’ lives. Doing so would also make nutrition interventions sustainable. Understanding the behaviours of the people being targeted by nutrition programmes could improve their nutrition status.

Our recent research looked at

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