BMC Public Health | 2019
Development and testing of locally-produced ready-to-use therapeutic and supplementary foods (RUTFs and RUSFs) in Cambodia: lessons learned
Rates of childhood undernutrition are persistently high in Cambodia. Existing ready-to-use supplementary and therapeutic foods (RUSFs and RUTFs) have had limited acceptance and effectiveness. Therefore, our project developed and trialled a locally-produced, multiple micronutrient fortified lipid-based nutrient supplement (LNS) with therapeutic and supplementary versions. This ready-to-use food (RUF) is innovative in that, unlike many RUFs, it contains fish instead of milk. Development began in 2013 and the RUF was finalised in 2015. From 2015 until the present, both the RUTF and the RUSF versions were trialled for acceptability and effectiveness. This paper draws on project implementation records and semi-structured interviews to describe the partnership between the Cambodian Ministries of Health and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, UNICEF, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), universities, and Vissot factory. It discusses the project implementation and lessons learned from the development and trialling process, and insights into positioning nutrition on the health agenda in low and middle-income countries. The lessons learned relate to the importance of project planning, management, and documentation in order to seize opportunities in the research, policy, advocacy, and programming environment while ensuring adequate day-to-day project administration and resourcing. We conclude that projects such as ours, that collaborate to develop and test novel, locally-produced RUTFs and RUSFs, offer an exciting opportunity to respond to both local programmatic and broader research needs.