Poor in CubaIn the Post-World War II era, policies in the Global South have focused on improving the diet of impoverished populations, including the poor in Cuba, specifically on increasing animal protein consumption.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there are 852 million undernourished people in the world, of whom approximately 815 million reside in developing countries.

“Rampant hunger and malnutrition impair the economic performance of individuals, households, and entire nations, and can lead to political instability and civil strife,” said Carmen G. Gonzalez, a professor at the University of Seattle.

Likewise, the health systems of the majority of countries, whether rich or poor, are inefficient and fragmented, preventing marginalized communities’ access to crucial health systems.

Nonetheless, in Cuba, these policies have reduced hunger in recent years, and the number of undernourished people is significantly diminishing.

“Cuba represents an important alternative example where modest infrastructure investments combined with a well-developed public health strategy have generated health status measures comparable with those of industrialized countries,” suggested the International Epidemiological Association.

After the 1959 Revolution in Cuba, the government led efforts to improve the diet and the health of impoverished citizens. One form of these efforts was an increase in animal protein production and consumption.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “there has been an increasing pressure on the livestock sector to meet the growing demand for high-value animal protein. The world’s livestock sector is growing at an unprecedented rate and the driving force behind this enormous surge is a combination of population growth, rising incomes and urbanization.”

Urbanization stimulates improvements in social and political spheres and there is still a gap between rural and urban nutrition. “Compared with the less diversified diets of the rural communities, city dwellers have a varied diet rich in animal proteins and fats, and characterized by higher consumption of meat, poultry, milk and other dairy products,” said WHO.

As diets become richer and more diverse, the protein derived from the livestock sector could improve the nutrition of the poor in Cuba. But through a developed health system, the Cuban government has not only successfully reduced malnutrition but also developed an advanced socio-economic strategy uniquely designed for developing nations.

Isabella Rolz

Sources: World Health Organization , International Epidemiological Association , FAO
Photo: Flickr

HolisticFebruary 2016 saw the launch of two new education initiatives that emphasize a holistic approach to educating low-income children. A project from Harvard University’s Education Redesign Lab, “By All Means: Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity,” and a project from the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, the “Broader Bolder Approach to Education,” will address factors outside of school that influence student performance.

Harvard University’s project will use six cities as laboratories for their project: Oakland, California; Louisville, Kentucky; Providence, Rhode Island; and Salem, Somerville and Newton in Massachusetts.

Harvard’s initiative is a multi-year project funded by individual donations and foundations. The project has created a “children’s cabinet” composed of government representatives, school superintendents and community leaders in each city. They will meet several times over the course of the project to share best practices and Harvard professors will connect them with experts in the field of education.

The project will track each city’s progress and identify barriers to students’ educational attainment and achievement. Their main focus will be on external factors, such as Medicaid regulations on health clinics in low-income school districts.

The mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, hopes that the project will add to his ambitious education goals for the city. In an article published by the Huffington Post, Fischer states, “What we hope for is to get [other cities’ and Harvard’s] best practices, learn from that, and learn how to make it happen.”

The Economic Policy Institute’s initiative “Broader, Bolder Approach to Education” was first launched in 2008. At that time, the initiative’s focus on external factors such as health care, nutrition and afterschool and summer enrichment programs drew strong skepticism. The program’s relaunch in February 2016 marks its entrance into the mainstream, as others have now adopted its holistic approach to education.

The initiative aims to improve educational attainment and achievement by tackling issues brought about by socioeconomic inequality. It targets early childhood education, offering a system of high-quality education, health and nutrition support for children and families.

The program continues to aid students throughout their childhood, following up with comprehensive health, wellness and nutrition supported by promoting partnerships between schools and third parties to keep children healthy and in school.

The “Broader, Bolder Approach” also aims to increase children’s educational opportunities by promoting before-school and after-school programs, as well as summer enrichment programs.

To narrow the achievement gap, the initiative advocates for greater integration of low-income and minority students into higher income, homogeneous school districts. The program emphasizes the importance of engaging and consulting the community when making decisions about improving education systems.

Elain Weiss is the national coordinator of the “Broader, Bolder Approach.” In an article published in Education Week, she comments on the relaunch of the program, noting that it has shifted from a focus on the “poverty-education connection, to emphasizing […] the specific policies and practices that would help mitigate those connections.”

The launch of these two programs marks a new trend in education policy, emphasizing holistic approaches to narrowing the achievement gap. By addressing factors that affect students’ health and happiness, such as the challenges of poverty and lack of access to health care, these programs promise to help disadvantaged students reach their full potential.

Clara Wang

Sources: Education Week, Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Education Dive , Bold Approach