Positive Deviance/Hearth Approach

In by Lisa Hilmi

CORE Group


Positive Deviance/Hearth is a successful home-based and neighborhood-based nutrition program for children who are at risk for malnutrition in developing countries. It has enabled hundreds of communities to reduce their levels of childhood malnutrition and to prevent malnutrition years after the program’s completion.

The “positive deviance” approach is used to find uncommon, beneficial practices by mothers or caretakers of well-nourished children from impoverished families. The approach calls for spreading these practices and behaviors to others in the community with malnourished children.

A “hearth” is the setting where the nutrition education and rehabilitation part of the program is carried out. Suggesting a family around a fireplace or kitchen, “hearths” are carried out in home settings where caretakers and volunteers prepare “positive deviant” foods. They practice beneficial child care behaviors and feed malnourished children with extra energy-rich/calorie-dense supplemental meals.


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