Cornell Professors Discuss Linkages between Nutrition and Economic Development

Saurabh Mehta and John Hoddinott


John Hoddinott, H.E. Babcock Professor of Economics and Policy and Einaudi Center International Faculty Fellow Saurabh Mehta, Assistant Professor of Global Health, Epidemiology, and Nutrition at Cornell University discussed the linkages between nutrition, economic development, and agriculture at the Cornell Trustee-Council Annual Meeting (TCAM) in October 2015.

Professor Hoddinott’s research looks at the relationship between early childhood nutrition and educational and economic performance of individuals. This research is one of the rationales behind the UN adopting ‘the elimination of chronic under-nutrition’ as a Sustainable Development Goal. Professor Hoddinott’s study showed that children, who were undernourished when young, ended up doing worse in school and on an average earned less when compared to their better nourished counterparts. Furthermore, he called for a more holistic approach towards dealing with issues of under-nutrition and over-nutrition: “Moving forward, the increasingly dominant question in developed and developing countries is not going to be about the quantity of diets but rather about the quality of diets.”

Professor Saurabh Mehta deliberated upon the importance of identifying sustainable agriculture interventions to address issues of global health. He discussed his ongoing bio-fortification study in Mumbai, India, where more than 700 children will be given fortifiedfoods, enriched with Iron and Zinc, to test the effects of these nutrients on the growth of these children, their immune system, and cognitive functioning. Professor Mehta also presented technological innovations and breakthroughs such as the Cornell Nutriphone which can help in doing rapid diagnoses. These kinds of technological innovations can play a key role in improving healthcare facilities in poor and rural communities. 

The TCAM faculty panel was facilitated by the Einaudi Center.