Adolescent girls have in recent years been recognised as a key target group to intervene nutritionally to ensure women are well-nourished at the point of conception, thereby impacting the critical window of the first 1000 days. Adolescence is also the final chance’ to intervene to try to improve the woman’s own growth and development.The objective of this paper is to compare the findings of Cost of the Diet (CoD) Studies in El Salvador, Ghana and Madagascar, on the cost of meeting the nutrient needs of adolescent girls compared to the cost of meeting the requirements of other household members and understand the drivers of these results.
Linear Programming using the CoD software were conducted for El Salvador, Ghana and Madagascar to model minimum cost nutritious diets. Five person households including an adolescent girl (14-15 years old), a child under 2, a lactating woman, a 6-7 year old child and a man were modelled, and the cost to meet the nutrient needs of each household member was compared. In Ghana an adolescent boy was also modelledto compareto the girl.
In all three countries, the cost of meeting the nutrient needs of the adolescent girl was the highest among all household members, and considerably higher than of the boy. The cost of the boy were lower than those of the lactating woman. The problem nutrients that drove the higher costs for the adolescent girl differed slightly by context, and included iron, folic acid, calcium and fat. The lower energy requirement compared to lactating women, adolescent boys and men, and the equal requirement of most other essential micro- and macro-nutrients requires that adolescent girls consume foods of high nutrient density. In low-income contexts, such as Northern Ghana and rural Madagascar, such foods can be very difficult and costly to obtain.
These results indicate the need to assess the feasibility of meeting the nutrient needs of adolescent girls in different contexts and to propose suitable options for improving her intake of essential nutrients, and in turn help to break the cycle of undernutrition.