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A Burnet Institute project aimed at reducing child undernutrition in Lao PDR has been awarded a significant $1.5 million National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant.
Burnet Institute Deputy Director, Professor Mike Toole AM and Senior Fellow Dr Ben Coghlan will work on the project led by University of Western Sydney Professor of Humanitarian and Development Studies, Professor Andre Renzaho, who previously held a dual appointment at Burnet and Monash University.
The NHMRC grant will facilitate research into the effectiveness of a mixed nutrition intervention package to reduce undernutrition in children aged up to 18 months.
The grant evolved from Burnet’s primary health care and nutrition project in Vilabouly in Southern Laos, which ran initially from 2008 to 2011.
Professor Toole said Burnet would conduct the fieldwork for the study and co-ordinate the personnel required.
“This grant is most welcome because it will enable us to test and cost a package of community interventions to reduce child malnutrition in two poor southern Lao districts where Burnet has been working for the past ten years,” he said.
“Despite strong recent economic growth child malnutrition remains one of the greatest health challenges in Laos.”
Recent estimates suggest that poor nutrition accounts for some 45 per cent of child deaths globally and 11 per cent of the total global disease burden.
The rate of chronic undernutrition (stunting) among children in Laos is 44 per cent and as high as 60 per cent in some rural districts.
This is driven by unhealthy traditional maternal and child feeding practices during pregnancy and post-partum.
Burnet’s previous study showed that a low cost nutrition specific intervention can reduce the prevalence of acute undernutrition in children.