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Institute focuses on global nutrition policy impact

Cornell’s Division of Nutritional Sciences is hosting the 4th annual WHO/Cochrane/Cornell University Summer Institute for Systematic Reviews in Nutrition for Global Policy Making July 24 to Aug. 4.

This year’s participants include 29 experts from around the world, and 10 faculty members from the World Health Organization (WHO), Cornell University and Cochrane, a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, caregivers, and people interested in health.

“The participants are working on systematic reviews that will provide evidence on important questions about the role of nutrition in health, many of which will be used in WHO guidelines on nutrition,” said Patricia Cassano, professor of nutritional sciences and Summer Institute director.

Lee Hooper, an editor for the Cochrane Heart Group, member of the WHO Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group and an institute faculty member, said systematic reviews “help us understand where we are in nutrition today, and understand better how to go out and do the right thing to improve people’s health through nutrition.”

“What is lovely about this institute is that we see people picking up the skills to go out and answer really important questions where we haven’t got, at the moment, a very good evidenced underpinning. This evidence is going to be taken forward by WHO; it will allow them to go out and actually run really good programs in the real world,” she said.

Patrick Stover, director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences, a shared unit of Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said the institute brings together “three of the most prestigious and influential institutions in nutrition worldwide – WHO, Cochrane and Cornell University – to advance science-based policies to address the most important public health problems globally.”

The two-week program, among other things, updates and develops technical skills and knowledge in systematic reviews of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions and builds understanding of global policy making, nutrition and evidence assessment and its challenges.

Pura Rayco-Solon, an epidemiologist with WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health Development and institute faculty member, is seeing the benefits of the institute and its training. “WHO’s legitimacy and technical authority lies in its systematic use of evidence, meaning everything WHO recommends that has policy implications to member states, has to be informed by evidence,” she said.

Institute faculty include Cornell faculty members Patrick Stover, Julia Finkelstein, Saurabh Mehta, David Pelletier, Kathleen Rasmussen, Bruce Lewenstein and Martin T. Wells. Francoise Vermeylen and Lynn Johnson of the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit and Kate Ghezzi-Kopel, applied health sciences librarian at Mann Library, are also participating.

Stephen D'Angelo is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

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