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Food and Nutrition


Building on over 45 years of global health experience, URC and its non-profit affiliate, the Center for Human Services (CHS), have developed and implemented successful solutions to food and nutrition challenges in over a dozen countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Nutrition is a complex, cross-cutting problem entwined with poverty and disease, so solving nutrition challenges requires innovative approaches, including nutrition-specific interventions; strong methods to test and implement integrated, nutrition-sensitive interventions; and intensive capacity strengthening of national or country actors to apply effective interventions at scale.

URC-CHS adopts a systems approach to our projects, building on a history of applying best practices from the private sector, and uses modern quality improvement concepts to successfully scale up evidence-based interventions.

Our projects encompass the areas described below. You can find more information about these areas in our technical brief.

Strengthening Nutrition Services and Support

Drawing on a broad toolkit and local priorities such as nutritional screening and counseling, we implement a comprehensive and client-centered approach called nutrition assessment, counseling, and support (NACS) for adults and children. We have experience in implementing nutrition components within HIV/AIDS care and treatment as well as holistic programs for mothers and children. We work to address clinical management as well as community health worker performance and support. In all, we help provide services and support for: micronutrient supplementation, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, growth monitoring and promotion for children, nutrition screening and counseling, emergency and therapeutic nutrition, food fortification, and food-based dietary diversity.

Developing Specialized Food Products

URC-CHS has supported the commercial production and public sector programming of specialized food products, including product standardization and safety, linking with farmers and commercial suppliers to create sustainable value chains, packaging, and social marketing for demand creation.

We led one of the most successful local production start-ups for ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) through the USAID NuLife—Food and Nutrition Interventions for Uganda project. Partnering with locally owned Reco Industries, we helped produced more than 120 metric tons of RUTF, certified for use by government and donors. While creating the demand for RUTF at health facilities—marketing under the local name “Rutafa,” which means “will not die” in a local language—URC created capacity in the Ugandan private food industry to manufacture and distribute a high-quality RUTF made with locally available crops. We successfully advocated for the inclusion of RUTF on the Essential Medicines List for Uganda, ensuring long-term demand and availability. URC is building on this success by working with Reco to expand their production and management capacity to sustainably produce a range of specialized food products while promoting food security. 

Integrating Interventions to Achieve Scale

URC has successfully integrated nutrition into HIV and TB services as well as in community-based health and family planning programs. One successful approach for integration and scale-up uses collaborative improvement, which standardizes best practices through shared learning approaches, engagement of frontline workers in collecting and analyzing data, and the inclusion of all stakeholders in learning sessions.

For example, in Uganda, NuLife contributed significantly to comprehensive nutrition care and support for thousands of malnourished individuals infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The project engaged health workers in developing a seven-step process for providing good nutrition care, including assessing, at every visit, malnutrition with middle upper-arm circumference (MUAC) tape, a simple tool for determining nutritional status. Breaking down nutrition services into smaller steps allowed facilities to gradually introduce services and focus improvements on small, feasible increments. As a result, staff in 54 facilities across the country improved the quality of nutrition counseling and interventions. From March 2009 to February 2011, facilities increased the percentage of HIV patients assessed for malnutrition at each visit from zero to nearly 100% (see graph below).


In Guatemala, URC has provided more than a decade of support to community-based programs run by the Ministry of Health. From 2002 to 2005, we helped integrate growth monitoring and promotion into a large-scale health care coverage extension program; from 2009 to 2011, we helped integrate nutrition into a family planning program that increased the delivery of family planning services to men and women in the country’s most deprived areas. This greatly expanded access to health information and nutrition services to the country’s most vulnerable populations. Growth monitoring and promotion is one approach to child nutritional assessment and counseling, which involves tailored counseling on such topics as exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding, and hygiene. The program measured improvements in health workers’ demonstrated delivery of appropriate counseling to caregivers, which increased from less than 25% of the time to over 90%.

Following on the program’s success, URC launched the USAID-funded Nutri-Salud project in July 2012. Targeting Guatemala’s western highlands region, Nutri-Salud focuses on improving the nutritional status of women and children, engaging communities in developing nutrition solutions, and strengthening maternal-newborn and child health and family planning services at the community level.

Translating Policy into Practice

Policies developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF over the last two decades provide a strong foundation for action to improve nutrition. Our job aids—educational tools for health/nutrition workers such as checklists, charts, counseling cards, and manuals—help translate national and international standards, policies, and guidelines into practical, “do-able” steps in both facilities and communities.

For example, in 2010, we partnered with UNICEF to develop The Community Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Counseling Package, an East Africa-focused package of community health worker training curricula, counseling job aids, and take-home materials on infant feeding. The package, which reflects the WHO Guidelines on HIV and Infant Feeding 2010, is a culmination of URC’s infant- and young child-feeding work with USAID, UNICEF, and CARE in several countries, including Benin, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda.

This image from a counseling package on infant and young child feeding shows both the range of foods a mother can introduce in her child's diet with continued breastfeeding, from the age of six to nine months, and the frequency of feedings. It reminds her to wash her hands prior to food preparation.













Conducting Research and Evaluation

A long-standing leader in data-driven approaches to achieving results and improving health and nutrition outcomes, URC uses a variety of research and evaluation methods. In addition to ensuring the highest standards of monitoring and evaluation, we conduct implementation research—the study and development of approaches to effectively and efficiently implement and scale up proven interventions.

Through the USAID Translating Research into Action (TRAction) project, we are funding research to document the development and testing of a social marketing approach for distributing and promoting the use of a new supplementary food product for complementary feeding for infants and young children in Ghana. In Bangladesh, TRAction supports efforts that examine several questions regarding community-based maternal-newborn and child health and nutrition service delivery at the community level.

Download our technical brief to learn more about our Food and Nutrition work.

Current Projects

Translating Research into Action (TRAction) Project
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2009 to present

USAID Health Care Improvement Project (HCI) | Guatemala
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2008 to present

USAID Health Care Improvement Project (HCI) | Global
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2007 to present

Partnership for the Community Management of Child Health (Partenariat pour la Prise en Charge Communautaire de la Santé Infantile – Prise-C)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2010 to present

Nutri-Salud: Community Nutrition and Health Project
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2012 to present

Production for Improved Nutrition
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2012 to present

USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project | Global
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the USAID Bureau for Global Health, Office of Health Systems
Project Duration: 2012 to present

USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project | Uganda
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID) through USAID/Uganda and the Bureau for Global Health, Office of HIV and AIDS and the Office of Health Systems
Project Duration: 2012 to present

Mawa
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)
Project Duration: 2012 to present

Quality Health Services for Haiti (Services de Santé de Qualité pour Haïti – SSQH) North Project
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2013 to present

Quality Improvement in the Delivery of Health Services in Belize
Funded By: Inter-American Development Bank and Belize Ministry of Health
Project Duration: 2013 to present

USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project | Democratic Republic of the Congo
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2013 to present

USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project | Zambia
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2013 to present

Guatemala Threshold Program Education Sector Analysis
Funded By: Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
Project Duration: 2013 to present

Resilience and Economic Growth in Sahel – Enhanced Resilience (REGIS-ER)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2013 to present

Social Health Protection Project
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2013 to present

USAID Quality Health Services
Funded By: USAID
Project Duration: 2014-2019

The Quality Health Services project, funded by USAID, will draw on and scale up successful initiatives started under USAID Cambodia’s recently ended Better Health Services (BHS) project, which was also managed by URC. In addition, the team will apply the knowledge and systems built during BHS to create new capacity-building activities in areas where critical gaps remain.

USAID Ghana Systems for Health Project
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2014 to present

Past Projects

Better Health Services (BHS)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2009-2013

USAID's Health Promotion and Communication Project (HealthPRO)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Project Duration: 2007–2012

Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia Partnership (MaNHEP)
Funded By: Subaward from Emory University with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Project Duration: 2009-2013

Technical Assistance and Support Contract 3: Global Health (TASC3 Global Health)
Funded By: United States Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2007-2013

USAID Health Care Improvement Project (HCI) | Tanzania
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2007-2012

USAID Health Care Improvement Project (HCI) | Uganda
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2007-2012

Infant and Young Child Nutrition (IYCN)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2006-2011

Food and Nutrition Interventions (NuLife)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
Project Duration: 2008-2011

Multi-Sector Alliance Program (Alianzas II)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development through RTI International
Project Duration: 2010 to 2012

Rehabilitation of the Infrastructure of the Ministry of Health: Component on Investment in Health Education
Funded By: Inter-American Development Bank and the Ministry of Health of Argentina
Project Duration: 1995

El Salvador Strengthening Health Project Technical Assistance and Support Contract 2 (TASC2)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2006–2009

Water and Sanitation for Health
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 1988–1994

Quality in Health (Calidad en Salud)
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 1999-2009

Latin America and Caribbean Health and Nutrition Sustainability
Funded By: US Agency for International Development’s Latin American and Caribbean Bureau and country Missions
Project Duration: 1990–1995

Rapid Expansion of Nutritional Recuperation Services for Malnourished Children in Nigerien Facilities
Funded By: American Jewish World Services, USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and UNICEF
Project Duration: 2005-2007

Peru Strengthening Health Institutions Project, MaxSalud Component
Funded By: US Agency for International Development/Peru
Project Duration: 1994-1999

Quality Assurance Project (QAP) I, II, and III
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 1990-2008

Women and Infant Health Strategy
Funded By: US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 1999-2003

Feasibility and Pilot Efficacy of Flash-Heated Breast Milk for Reduction of Maternal-to-Child Transmission of HIV in Tanzania
Funded By: The Thrasher Foundation and the National Institutes for Health
Project Duration: 2007-2009

Rural Community Health Project
Funded By: US Agency for International Development/Tunisia
Project Duration: 1981-1985

Technical Assistance and Support Contract 2 (TASC2): Global Health
Funded By: United States Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2004–2009

Food and Technical Assistance (FANTA) II
Funded By: United States Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2010 to 2011

USAID Health Care Improvement Project (HCI) | Malawi
Funded By: The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the US Agency for International Development
Project Duration: 2011-2013

Technical Support to Develop a Quality-of-Care Framework for a Hospital Health Care Improvement Project in Liberia
Funded By: The World Bank Group
Project Duration: 2013



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