September 25, 2018 | By Gene Alexander

A New Tool in the Fight Against Malnutrition

By Gene Alexander, CTO, Body Surface Translations

Editor's Note: Alesha Black serves as an advisor to BST. BST presented its technology at the Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium in Spring 2017. To view that video, click here.


A little over a year ago, I presented Body Surface Translation’s (BST) early state technology to use 3D scanning to estimate key data points in order to determine child nutrition status, including stunting. The technology could help field workers capture the circumference of the head, upper-arm, and gather height/length--the key inputs to determine whether a child is considerably lower in height/length for age, an indication of stunting.

A year and a half later, my colleagues and our collaborators were thrilled to see the Centers for Disease Control  demonstrating the power and ease of our AutoAnthro scanning technology to capture these measurements at the second annual GoalKeepers event in New York City. The foundation featured a talk by Maria Jeffords about our collaboration in Guatemala and the need for high-quality anthropometric data, along with a demonstration scanning session of a young child by Karim Bougma. The talk highlighted the challenges of quickly and accurately measuring dozens, if not hundreds of children. While traditional anthropometry works and it is not resource intensive to capture this measure, it is labor intensive and can be upsetting for the child and parent as it involves stretching children out to gather height or length.  And, because it is done manually, it can leave room for significant variation between those who measure the same child, making it very difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions in a timely manner.

We have recently received renewed support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to use our scanning technology in partnership with leading global health universities and their local partners to further test and improve the technology. In addition to updating the languages the platform operates in, we’ll be working to reduce the cost, improve the speed of the analytical process, and we’ll be looking for ways to make the technology as rugged and field-ready as possible.

We hope that by making the measurement process easier and making data entry automatic (as well as time and location stamped) that global data about child stunting will dramatically improve in the coming years. This can enable better targeting and progress toward Sustainable Development Goal 2.2, ending all forms of malnutrition, and specifically aligning to the global health goal of reducing stunting by 40% by 2025.

As we continue to progress, we’ll share our progress with you. In the coming months, we’ll be expanding the regions trialing the technology from Guatemala and Kenya to include Bangladesh, Tanzania, and others. Ultimately, better data means better decisions with scarce resources, which is essential with goals as ambitious as the the Sustainable Development Goals.



The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Lisa Moon

Guest Commentary - Reduce Food Loss & Waste, Feed Millions

Studies show that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, enough to feed 1.9 billion people-almost the same amount as are experiencing food insecurity. Food banks are uniquely positioned to address the paradox of global hunger and food loss and waste. 

| By Colin Christensen, Eva Koehler

Guest Commentary - The Plague You’ve Never Heard About Could be as Destructive as COVID-19: How the Threat from Desert Locusts Shows the Need for Innovations in how Organizations Scale

The international community needs to mobilize to combat the plague of locusts devouring East Africa. At the same time however, we should also consider the long-term investments we must make to build lasting resilience to climate change among smallholder populations.

| By Sarah Bingaman Schwartz, Maria Jones

Guest Commentary - Reducing Food Loss and Waste by Improving Smallholder Storage

Reducing postharvest losses by half would result in enough food to feed a billion people, increase smallholder income levels and minimize pressure on natural resources. The ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss works with smallholders in Bihar to improve storage and reduce loss. 

| By Mark Titterington

Guest Commentary - A European perspective on the journey to a regenerative agriculture system…

Regenerative farming practices can lead to improved soil health and farm productivity and profitability, boosting crop quality and yields, improving the resilience of farms to extreme weather events and reducing the propensity for soil degradation and run-off, but most excitingly, creates the opportunity to actually draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere in agriculture soils.