Observations from many countries indicate that multiple forms of malnutrition might coexist in a country, a household, and an individual. In this Series, the double burden of malnutrition (DBM) encompasses undernutrition in the form of stunting, and overweight and obesity. Health effects of the DBM include those associated with both undernutrition, such as impaired childhood development and greater susceptibility to infectious diseases, and overweight, especially in terms of increased risk of added visceral fat and increased risk of non-communicable diseases. These health effects have not been translated into economic costs for individuals and economies in the form of lost wages and productivity, as well as higher medical expenses. We summarise the existing approaches to modelling the economic effects of malnutrition and point out the weaknesses of these approaches for measuring economic losses from the DBM. Where population needs suggest that nutrition interventions take into account the DBM, economic evaluation can guide the choice of so-called double-duty interventions as an alternative to separate programming for stunting and overweight. We address the evidence gap with an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of an illustrative double-duty intervention that addresses both stunting and overweight in children aged 4 years and older by providing school meals with improved quality of diet. We assess the plausibility of our method and discuss how improved data and models can generate better estimates. Double-duty interventions could save money and be more efficient than single-duty interventions.
Economic effects of the double burden of malnutrition