WASH and Nutrition in Public Health – Common Goals, Common Obstacles
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) have traditionally been linked to acute gastro-intestinal infections. More recently it has been hypothesised that an important pathway through which inadequate WASH access impacts on the burden of disease is via a chronic inflammatory state in the intestines named environmental enteropathy. This condition is strongly associated with an unhygienic living environment and undernutrition in children. Improving WASH as well as macro- and micronutrient intake may be the primary means of preventing or mitigating environmental enteropathy and undernutrition. In this article, we discuss commonalities between the WASH and nutrition sectors with regard to research, advocacy and programmatic integration to tackle undernutrition. It is argued that WASH and nutrition as cornerstones of public health share a number of common goals but also common challenges that put both fields at risk of being de-prioritised in health policy.