Lao-American Institute Will Work to Improve Nutrition in Laos

(From third right) U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter, the Minister of Health H.E. Dr. Bounkong Syhavong and high ranking officials participate in the ground breaking ceremony in Vientiane.

The U.S. government, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and the Lao Ministry of Health held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future campus of the Lao-American Nutrition Institute (LANI) on November 2, 2016 in Vientiane.  The Minister of Health H.E. Dr. Bounkong Syhavong, Ambassador Rena Bitter, and OHSU President Joe Robertson attended the groundbreaking ceremony marking the culmination of 3 years of planning and collaboration between the U.S. and Lao governments on this project.

Speaking at the event Ambassador Bitter said, “With the U.S. providing the infrastructure, the Lao providing the land, and one of America’s leading universities providing the know-how, LANI is creating a dynamic new model of development cooperation.”

The U.S. government is providing nearly USD $4M for facility construction, while the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) will serve as technical advisers for the LANI.  LANI’s educational programs are expected to start in 2017, and the campus will be constructed over the next few years. When completed, LANI will have classrooms, a lecture hall, outpatient and inpatient clinical assessment and intervention areas, and a clinical laboratory.

As technical advisors and teachers, OHSU and other regional partners will offer decades of experience training registered dietitians.  Graduates of the LANI’s clinical dietetics and community nutrition management programs will work at national, provincial and community hospitals and with community leaders throughout Lao PDR to address malnutrition, a top health priority for the country.  Although significant advancements have been made to reduce malnutrition in recent years, the overall rates of stunting and wasting remain at 35.6% and 9.6%, respectively, among children under the age of 5 years.  The Embassy and OHSU are honored to bring its funding and expertise to this educational and professional development arena to enable Lao experts to respond to the core drivers behind malnutrition throughout the country and to improve the health of Lao people for generations to come.