The term “Positive Deviance” initially appeared in the nutrition research literature in the 1960s. The use of Positive Deviance in nutrition was developed in the book ”Positive Deviance in Child Nutrition” edited by Tufts University professor, Marian Zeitlin, Hossein Ghassemi and Mohamed Mansour, published in 1990. Based on solid research, the book documented the existence of healthy children or “Positive Deviant” children in very poor families living in communities with high level of childhood malnutrition and identified the factors that allowed them to thrive despite the odds.
In the early 1990’s in Vietnam, Jerry Sternin and his wife, Monique, working for the US NGO Save the Children, supported by then Health Advisor Dr. Gretchen Berggren, experimented with the PD concept and operationalized it to eradicate childhood malnutrition in a sustainable way as mandated by the Vietnamese government. Thanks to the dedicated work of the local organizations working together for the first time (Women’s Union, People’s committee and health services) the community based and owned pilot project was successful in rehabilitating 93% of malnourished children in a sustainable way and was subsequently scaled up to reach 5 million families in Vietnam.