Helen Keller International’s Assessment & Research on Child Feeding (ARCH) project is investigating how food products for infants and young children are promoted. In the first three years of the project, we conducted research in Cambodia, Nepal, Senegal, and Tanzania on the availability, promotion, and consumption of foods consumed by infants and young children under two years of age, including breastmilk substitutes and commercially produced complementary foods and snack foods. We also facilitate use of research findings for decision-making at the global and national level about policies and programs to improve the nutritional status of infants and young children.
In May 2016, we published findings from research conducted during our first three years in the peer-reviewed journal Maternal & Child Nutrition.
Promoting a healthy start in life
We focus on improving nutrition during the first two years—a crucial window of opportunity to shape a child’s future. Good nutrition during this time helps children grow, feeds intelligence, and provides the foundation for a healthy and productive life. The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that babies receive only breastmilk, and no other foods or fluids, for the first six months of life followed by the introduction of nutritious complementary foods along with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age and beyond.
Using data to shape global and national policies
We aim to conduct and communicate research related to promotion of foods that are consumed by young children with the goal of helping policymakers craft and enforce policies to safeguard infant and child health. Using findings from Cambodia, Nepal, Senegal and Tanzania, ARCH has informed World Health Organization international nutrition guidelines. For example, our research on commercially produced foods consumed by infants and young children informed the World Health Organization guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.
We also share data to inform decision-makers who oversee national policies and programs to promote breastfeeding as an essential component of nutrition and improve the nutritional status of infants and young children. Currently, we are working in Cambodia, Nepal, Senegal, and Indonesia. Learn more about our country activities.
Areas of Focus
To support and protect breastfeeding, national laws should align with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes which restricts promotion of these products and outlines the responsibilities of governments, health-care systems, and companies in ensuring that that breastmilk substitutes are not marketed. Promotion of breastmilk substitutes has been shown to undermine breastfeeding. Yet as of 2013, only 37 of 199 countries reported to the World Health Organization that they were implementing the Code in full. In addition, our data revealed widespread violations of the Code in several countries. To protect breastfeeding, we advocate at the global level for improved compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions of the World Health Assembly. We also aim to increase use of evidence on the availability, promotion, and consumption of breastmilk substitutes by government stakeholders to inform national policy and practice.
Encourage appropriate use of complementary foods
Our research in several countries revealed that commercially produced complementary foods, such as baby cereals, are not always appropriately labeled and promoted. For example, labels encouraging mothers to feed complementary foods to babies before six months of age or use servings that are too large may interfere with continued breastfeeding. We aim to increase the use of evidence on availability, promotion, and consumption of commercially produced complementary foods by government stakeholders in several countries to inform policy and practice and help governments align national guidance with new global guidance on promotion of complementary foods.
Investigate the use of snack foods
In many countries, a high proportion of young children eat salty and/or sugary snack foods—putting them at risk not only of malnutrition, but also of developing obesity and chronic diseases later in life. We are investigating the promotion, consumption, and nutritional impact of commercially produced snack foods. Our goal is to share key research findings with global and national decision-makers to inform policies and programs that aim to improve child nutritional status.
About Helen Keller International
Founded in 1915 by Helen Keller and George Kessler, the mission of Helen Keller International (HKI) is to save the sight and lives of the world’s most vulnerable by combatting the causes and consequences of blindness, poor health, and malnutrition. HKI combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs grounded in evidence which aim to have a lasting impact and to promote equity and stewardship. Headquartered in New York City, HKI’s programs prevent blindness and reduce malnutrition in 22 countries in Africa and Asia, as well as in the United States. For more information, visit www.hki.org.