The Nurture Early for Optimal Nutrition (NEON) programme is a multi-phase project that aims to optimise feeding, care and dental hygiene practices in South Asian children <2 in East London using participatory learning and action (PLA) cycles facilitated by a multi-lingual community facilitator. 

The first phase (formative research & 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. It was led by Prof Monica Lakhanpaul.

The current second phase (pilot randomised controlled trial & intervention development in all South Asians) is funded by the NIHR Academy (£805,854) in partnership with the Tower Hamlets GP Care Group CIC & the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets & Newham. It’s being led by Dr Logan Manikam.

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 to download here


NEON summary from a community facilitator



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 & 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).



There is an 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.


Sub-optimal feeding, care and dental hygiene practices have shown to be particularly prevalent in the UK South Asian population . The Borough of Tower Hamlets and Newham has one of the largest South Asian communities in the country alongside higher than average rates of child poverty and obesity.

Tower Hamlets
Tower Hamlets and Newham map


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

NIHR Advanced Fellow, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Aceso Global Health Consultants Ltd Director

UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare







©2020 by Aceso Global Health Consultants Ltd.

Tower Hamlets and Newham map