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World Health. 1985 Nov; 13-15.In November 1980, Dr. Halfdan Mahler, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), and James Grant, head of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), drafted a joint program to improve the nutritional status of children and women through developmental measures based on primary health care. The government of Italy agreed to fund in full the estimated cost of US$85.3 million. When a tripartite agreement was signed in Rome in April 1982, the WHO/UNICEF Joint Nutrition Support Program (JNSP) came into being. It was agreed that resources would be concentrated in a number of countries to develop both demonstrable and replicable ways to improve nutrition. Thus far, projects are underway or are just starting in 17 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In most of these countries, infant and toddler mortality rates are considerably higher than the 3rd world averages. Program objectives include reducing infant and young child diseases and deaths and at the same time improving child health, growth, and development as well as maternal nutrition. These objectives require attention to be directed to the other causes of malnutrition as well as diet and food. JNSP includes nutrition and many other activities, such as control of diarrhea. The aim of all activities is better nutritional status leading to better health and growth and lower mortality. Feeding habits and family patterns differ from 1 country to another as do the JNSP country projects. Most JNSP projects adopt a multisectoral approach, incorporating varied activities that directly improve nutritional status. Activities involve agriculture and education as well as health but are only included if they can be expected to lead directly to improved nutrition. A multisectoral program calls for multisectoral management and involves coordination at all levels -- district, provincial, and national. This has been one of the most difficult things to get moving in many JNSP projects, yet it is one of the most important. Community participation is vital to all projects. Its success can only be judged as the projects unfold, but early experiences from several countries are encouraging.