PLENARY SESSION: EVALUATING NUTRITION AND HEALTH OUTCOMES - MAIN PRESENTATION: Matin Qaim, University of Gottingen, Germany
How to evaluate nutrition and health impacts of agricultural innovations
The majority of the world's undernourished people are smallholder farmers in developing countries. These people also often suffer from multiple infectious diseases. Agricultural technologies and related innovations can affect the nutrition and health situation of farm households, but relatively little is known about the concrete types and magnitudes of such effects. While there is a broad literature on impacts of agricultural innovations, most studies primarily focus on impacts in terms of productivity and income. Nutrition and health impacts have rarely been analyzed in detail. This is a serious research gap, as knowing more about such impacts can help to design innovations that contribute better towards nutrition and health goals. This paper argues that future impact studies should include nutrition and health dimensions more explicitly. It also discusses methods that can be used for this purpose. A conceptual framework is developed to clarify possible mechanisms of how agricultural innovations can affect nutrition and health of farm households and individual household members. Beyond direct effects on nutrition through changes in the quantity, quality, and diversity of foods produced, indirect effects can occur through the income pathway. Health effects of agricultural innovations may happen through the nutrition pathway or directly through occupational health hazards, zoonoses, or water-borne vectors of infectious diseases. Further, different metrics of nutrition and health outcomes are discussed. To measure nutrition outcomes, food consumption recalls, subjective food security assessments, and anthropometric data are suggested, which all have their specific advantages and drawbacks. Health outcomes can be measured through disease incidence data and cost-of-illness or disability adjusted life years (DALY) approaches. To evaluate impacts of agricultural innovations, the nutrition and health metrics have to be compared between adopters and non-adopters of a particular innovation. Statistical approaches of how to deal with possible selection bias are reviewed. Finally, selected empirical examples of related impact assessments are presented and discussed.