Why is this

There is increasing recognition of the importance of the first 1000 days of life to child growth and development for the prevention of under and overnutrition, both in childhood as well as in later adult life. Sub-optimal feeding, care, and dental hygiene practices within this period increase the risk of nutrition-related diseases across the life course such as dental caries, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease alongside worse intellectual development.


The Nurture Early for Optimal Nutrition (NEON) Programme is a multi-phase project led by Prof. Monica Lakhanpaul and Dr. Logan Manikam with academic colleagues at UCL and a multidisciplinary research team that aims to optimise infant feeding, care, and dental hygiene practices among children <2 years old from South Asian origin in East London using participatory learning and action (PLA) cycles facilitated by a multi-lingual community facilitators. 


The first phase (formative research and intervention development in British Bangladeshis) was funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North Thames (£301,693) in partnership with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.


The current second phase (pilot feasibility randomised controlled trial and intervention development in all South Asians) is funded by the NIHR Academy (£805,854) in partnership with the Tower Hamlets GP Care Group CIC and the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, and Waltham Forest.


If successful, a cluster randomised controlled trial will follow in East London with subsequent scale-up across the UK.


A detailed 2-page summary is available here.

Click here for NEON Partners and Funders.



The PLA group approach used by the NEON programme has been widely documented as a low-cost, culturally adaptable, and effective method to achieve improvements in maternal and infant survival. It is being reverse innovated to the UK from developing countries for the first time. 

PLA groups have been recommended by the World Health Organisation and have demonstrated:

  • Reduction in maternal and new-born deaths (49% reduction in maternal mortality and 33% reduction in neonatal mortality)

  • The ability to address social determinants of health 

  • Adaptability to different cultural and country contexts (India, Malawi, Bangladesh, Nepal)

The PLA approach is informed by significant evidence on participatory approaches to community development. It involves forming community groups facilitated by multi-lingual local champions who then follow a four-phase meeting cycle supported via community-led facilitation. The four phases are aimed at enabling participants to identify health problems (PLA - phase 1), identify local solutions to these problems (PLA - phase 2), implement these solutions (PLA - phase 3) and evaluate and reflect on the success of the group (PLA - phase 4).



We are supported by a diverse expert team of Investigators that include:

Dr. Michelle Heys

Associate Professor in Child Health Research

Population Policy and Practice Programme, UCL GOS-ICH

Prof. Andrew Hayward

UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare Director

Dept. of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL IEHC

Dr. Neha Batura

Lecturer in Health Economics and Centre for Global Health Economics Deputy Director

UCL Institute for Global Health

Dr. Clare Llewellyn

Associate Professor in Child Health Research

Population Policy and Practice Programme, UCL GOS-ICH

Dr. Rajalakshmi Lakshman

Consultant in Public Health Medicine

MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine

Shereen Al Laham

Research Associate

UCL and Aceso Global Health Consultants (AGHC) 

Corinne Clarkson

Public Strategist for Maternal and Clinical Health

Waltham Forest Council

Amanda Nutkins

Health Visitor

NELFT NHS Foundation Trust

Delceta Daley

HV Operational Lead

Chingford Health Centre Waltham Forest

Mary Marsh

Head of Universal Services 0-19

Waltham Forest Council