THE RESEARCH AGENDA
 

The No Wasted Lives Coalition is investing in cutting edge ideas to drive forward global learning and action on acute malnutrition. As part of this effort, in 2018, No Wasted Lives and the Council of Research & Technical Advice (CORTASAM) launched the global Research Agenda for Acute Malnutrition and a call for Expressions of Interest from organisations working in research and programming for acute malnutrition and who want to support this effort. Our aim is to support coordination and concrete action across the sector, filling critical gaps and scaling-up evidence-based prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition.

 

Prioritising Research for Impact

The Council for Research and Technical Advice on Acute Malnutrition (CORTASAM) was assembled under No Wasted Lives with the goal to drive the use of evidence for action, in order to ultimately reach more children with effective treatment and prevention programmes.

Over the course of 2017, CORTASAM and No Wasted Lives launched a research prioritisation exercise, with the involvement and contribution of over 300 individuals from national governments, NGOs, academia, UN agencies and technical experts from around the world. In line with the priority research areas identified and a review of the existing evidence, CORTASAM has identified the following research areas with high potential impact on the effective management of acute malnutrition at scale but where further research and evidence generation is critically needed in order to achieve this:

  1. Effective approaches to detect, diagnose, and treat acute malnutrition in the community: taking community detection using mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) to scale while building the evidence on diagnosis and treatment of acute malnutrition in the community across contexts and health platforms.
  2. Appropriate entry and discharge criteria for treatment of acute malnutrition to ensure optimum outcomes: building the evidence base on expanded MUAC thresholds for treatment to improve treatment outcomes for all children with acute malnutrition. Also needed is research to explore different options to identify high-risk children not selected by MUAC<115mm and analysis on the impact on burden estimates and operational feasibility, including supply and supply chain.
  3. Optimum dosage of ready-to-use food (RUF) for treatment of acute malnutrition:  investigating the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of reduced dosage of RUF for treatment of acute malnutrition.
  4. Effective treatment of diarrhoea in children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM): using evidence to streamline guidance and generating implementation research to understand how the operational application of guidelines can inform improved practice and better treatment outcomes.
  5. Rates and causal factors of post-treatment relapse across contexts: understanding the burden of relapse post-treatment and, if found to be high, effective solutions to reduce relapse across contexts.
  6. Identification and management of at-risk mothers and of infants <6 months of age: generating the evidence required to influence country-level policies and implementation at scale.
  7. Alternative formulations for ready-to-use foods for acute malnutrition: continuation of the large amount of ongoing research to investigate the effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, of formulas using alternative and local ingredient.

More details about the evidence gaps and CORTASAM's call for more research can be found in the Research Agenda. Download it below.

 

Funding Research in Line with the Agenda

In January 2018, No Wasted Lives ran a call for Expressions of Interest in response to the Research Agenda. The call closed in February. 71 submissions were received, totalling a value of over $41m, from 44 organisations, for research in 26 countries. Download an overview of the submissions received here.

With the aim of producing a shortlist of high priority expressions of interest to take forward, the submissions went through the following review stages:

  1. Preliminary screening by NWL Secretariat
  2. Full review by CORTASAM: shared with CORTASAM working groups for more thorough review. Each working group was comprised of at least two CORTASAM members with team allocation made by the NWL Secretariat to ensure there were no conflicts of interest during the review process. Each of the working groups were asked to review each EoI against a set of criteria (strategic, technical, and financial).

From this process, 15 EoIs received unanimous approval to be shortlisted by the CORTASAM working group reviewers. This is the CORTASAM-endorsed shortlist of EoIs. The purpose of this shortlist is to summarise the high priority and strategic proposed research activities we hope to launch in 2018. Download an overview of the shortlisted projects here.

In July 2018, the Coalition announced that the first four research studies aligned to the agenda will be funded by No Wasted Lives Coalition member the innocent foundation

For more information on these projects, visit the Research Portfolio page.