Nutrition-friendly schools initiative (NFSI)

Nutrition-related health problems in children are increasingly significant causes of disability and premature death worldwide. While undernutrition continues to be a major problem in many developing countries, the problem of overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions globally, and both developed and developing countries are seriously affected. In some countries, the epidemic of obesity sits alongside continuing problems of undernutrition, creating a double-burden of nutrition-related ill health among the population, including children.

Based on the principle that effectively addressing the increasing global public health problem of the double-burden of nutrition-related ill-health requires common policy options, the Nutrition-Friendly Schools Initiative (NFSI) was developed as follow-up to the WHO Expert Meeting on Childhood Obesity (Kobe, 20-24 June 2005).

The main aim of the NFSI is to provide a framework for ensuring integrated school-based programmes which address the double-burden of nutrition-related ill health, building on and inter-connecting the on-going work of various agencies and partners. These include the FRESH Initiative, Essential Package (UNICEF/WFP), Child-Friendly Schools (UNICEF), Health Promoting Schools (WHO), School Food and Nutrition Education programmes (FAO) to mention just a few. NFSI applies the concept and principles of the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), where schools that meet a set of essential criteria will be accredited as "Nutrition Friendly Schools".

Improving the nutritional status of school-age children is an effective investment for:

  • improving educational outcomes of school children
  • establishing healthy dietary and physical activity patterns among young people thereby promoting health and nutritional well-being and preventing obesity and various noncommunicable diseases , and
  • improving nutrition among adolescent girls, which in a life course perspective, will benefit the health and nutrition of the future generation.

Pre-schools and schools offer many opportunities to promote healthy dietary and physical activity patterns for children and are also a potential access point for engaging parents and community members in preventing child malnutrition in all its forms (i.e. undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and obesity and nutrition-related noncommunicable disease). The universality of the school setting for gaining access to children makes it highly relevant to global efforts to combat the increasing public health problems of the double-burden of nutrition-related ill health.

Related information

Contact address:

Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD)
Nutrition-Friendly Schools Initiative (NFSI)
World Health Organization
20, Avenue Appia
CH - 1211 Geneva 27
Fax: + 41.22.791.4156