Innovative Finance to Address Nutrition in Southeast Asia
While malnutrition is a global issue, it has become a particularly severe public health disaster across Southeast Asia. There, as in other developing regions, world health experts speak of the “dual burden” of malnutrition, by which they mean the alarming rise in both undernutrition (nutrient-deficient and underweight) and overnutrition (overweight and obesity) rates. This lethal combination taxes already fragile public health systems and poses significant risks for future generations.
Malnutrition is a complex issue, rooted in numerous socioeconomic and area-specific factors. This report does not intend to address the causes, social and genetic factors, or prevailing intervention and treatment methods (e.g., outreach, improved sanitation, access to fresh and healthy foods, and exercise programs) led and funded by governments, NGOs, philanthropic organizations, and private companies. Rather, it explores potential funding alternatives that could bolster these efforts and help close the Southeast Asia funding gap, estimated to be up to $6 billion a year—more than half of the global funding gap—needed to address the region’s undernutrition and obesity epidemics.
Because the funding gap is so acute and funding sources insufficient to bridge it, the Milken Institute Asia Center is examining ways to engage new forms of capital that could broaden and diversify the pool of investors willing to support high-impact programs like malnutrition intervention. To this end, the center hosted a Financial Innovations Lab® at Singapore Management University on June 30, 2015. Lab participants included health researchers and academics, as well as representatives of governments, NGOs, and donor foundations. The discussion focused on innovative financing models that have been put to work successfully in other regions, and to see if they could
be applied in Southeast Asia.
We have extended the reach of our work with a series of op-eds appearing in leading news sites in the region: