Lack of political commitment has been identified as a primary reason for the low priority that food and nutrition interventions receive from national governments relative to the high disease burden caused by malnutrition. Researchers have identified a number of factors that contribute to food and nutrition's 'low-priority cycle' on national policy agendas, but few tools exist to rapidly measure political commitment and identify opportunities to advance food and nutrition on the policy agenda. This article presents a theory-based rapid assessment approach to gauging countries' level of political commitment to food and nutrition security and identifying opportunities to advance food and nutrition on the policy agenda. The rapid assessment tool was piloted among food and nutrition policymakers and planners in 10 low- and middle-income countries in April to June 2013. Food and nutrition commitment and policy opportunity scores were calculated for each country and strategies to advance food and nutrition on policy agendas were designed for each country. The article finds that, in a majority of countries, political leaders had verbally and symbolically committed to addressing food and nutrition, but adequate financial resources were not allocated to implement specific programmes. In addition, whereas the low cohesion of the policy community has been viewed a major underlying cause of the low-priority status of food and nutrition, the analysis finds that policy community cohesion and having a well thought-out policy alternative were present in most countries. This tool may be useful to policymakers and planners providing information that can be used to benchmark and/or evaluate advocacy efforts to advance reforms in the food and nutrition sector; furthermore, the results can help identify specific strategies that can be employed to move the food and nutrition agenda forward. This tool complements others that have been recently developed to measure national commitment to advancing food and nutrition security.
Keywords: Political commitment; food and nutrition security; priority setting; rapid assessment.
Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine © The Author 2014; all rights reserved.