Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Sustainable micronutrient interventions to control deficiencies and improve nutritional status and general health in Asia (Nutrition)

Project acronym: SMILING

Title of project: Sustainable micronutrient interventions to control deficiencies and improve nutritional status and general health in Asia

Research area: Nutrition

Contract No: 289616

EU contribution: € 1 999 345

Start date: January 2012

Duration: 24 months

Status: on-going

Malnutrition, especially micronutrient deficiencies in early childhood – defined as the first 1 000 days of life – is fundamental to determining the development of the individual, as well as the health and well-being of adults. Thus, preventing micronutrient deficiencies in women of reproductive age, before and during pregnancy, and in infants and young children, is essential not only for their immediate advantage, but also for the health benefits that last entire lifetimes and even effect future generations.

The SMILING project is a transnational collaboration between research institutions and implementation agencies in five Southeast Asian (SEA) countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam – with European partners. The collaboration is supporting the application of state-of-the-art knowledge to alleviate micronutrient malnutrition in SEA. The project adopted a collaborative approach, which meant developing and learning together, rather than bringing in external expertise to teach those less advanced.

SMILING included countries with a wide range of social and economic development. Similarly, the magnitude and severity of undernutrition (stunting, wasting, and micronutrient malnutrition) in children and women ranges widely and some countries are in a nutrition transition, with a decreasing prevalence of undernutrition but a rapidly rising prevalence of overnutrition.

Successful countrywide strategies require multisectoral ownership. Nutrition needs to be integrated within multiple sectors, such as health, social protection, agriculture, education, and urban and rural development. Empowerment and behavioural change of adolescent girls and women of reproductive age are also key to the rapid improvement of their micronutrient status and those of their children.

The use of science-based evidence for effectively implementing actions requires an understanding of nutritional problems and their complex causes, and engagement with a broad range of stakeholders, especially policy makers that need to be convinced that investment in nutrition is essential and profitable for the country and its population.

The project's key actions involved:

  • Exploiting scientific knowledge for an evidence-based approach (state-of-the-art review of the literature on micronutrient needs and intervention studies).
  • Mapping past and current intervention strategies implemented in SEA countries and analysing reasons for success or failure.
  • Taking into account the SEA country situations, specificities, and experiences in nutrition; and through mapping micronutrient malnutrition in women and young children, using existing and ongoing research to reduce micronutrient deficiencies and identify new interventions that are potentially effective.
  • Prioritising and characterising the potential best practices in each SEA country to improve micronutrient status on a large scale.
  • Developing innovative tools that support nutrition policy-making and programming. This will include mathematical modelling techniques combined with linear programming that can inform policy makers on the potential of food-based strategies to provide the required (micro)nutrients.
  • Building the policy roadmap and strategic framework.

The expected outcomes included improved micronutrient status on a large scale, priority interventions identifiedfor each SEA country, and development of a roadmap for decision makers and donors for the inclusion of these priority interventions into national policy.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Jacques Berger,

Organisation: Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, France,