The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
NH conceptualized and designed the research. KS and NH conducted the research. BL provided critical inputs on intellectual content and data interpretation. All authors contributed in drafting the manuscript, and approved the final manuscript.
Globally, 25% of children aged 0 to 4 years and more than 10% of women aged 15 to 49 years suffer from malnutrition. A range of interventions, promising for improving maternal and child nutrition, may also improve physical and intellectual capacity, and, thereby, future productivity and earnings.
We conducted a systematic literature review and summarized economic impacts of 23 reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) interventions, published in 29 empirical studies between 2000 and 2013, using data from 13 low- and middle-income countries.
We find that, in low- and middle-income countries, RMNCH interventions were rarely evaluated using rigorous evaluation methods for economic consequences. Nonetheless, based on limited studies, maternal and childhood participation in nutrition interventions was shown to increase individuals’ income as adults by up to 46%, depending on the intervention, demography and country. This effect is sizeable considering that poverty reduction interventions, including microfinance and conditional cash transfer programs, have helped increase income by up to 18%, depending on the context. We also found, compared to females, males appeared to have higher economic returns from childhood participation in RMNCH interventions.
Countries with pervasive malnutrition should prioritize investments in RMNCH interventions for their public health benefits. The existing literature is currently too limited, and restricted to a few selected countries, to warrant any major reforms in RMNCH policies based on expected future income impacts. Longitudinal and intergenerational databases remain needed for countries to be better positioned to evaluate maternal and early childhood nutrition intervention programs for future economic consequences.
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- The economic consequences of selected maternal and early childhood nutrition interventions in low- and middle-income countries: a review of the literature, 2000—2013
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