Loading..

Category: Global

A Much-Needed Win for Moms and Babies: the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act

Photo Credit: USAID

Nutrition plays a foundational role in a child’s development and her country’s ability to prosper. It is why several of the world’s leading economists have called for greater investments in the nutrition and well-being of mothers, babies, and toddlers as a way to create brighter and more prosperous futures for us all.

On September 20, 2022, the Senate passed the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R. 4693) a lifesaving bill that will positively impact tens of millions of women and young children especially in their 1,000-day window, the time between pregnancy and the baby’s second birthday. This is the precious window of opportunity that enables all children to reach their full potential. When children are well nourished, cared for, and protected from disease, violence and toxic stress, they have the best chance at a thriving future. And when children get a strong start, we all benefit.

About the bill

The legislation will support countries in their efforts to prevent the current 2.6 million childhood malnutrition-related deaths worldwide, approximately 150 million children with stunted development, and the 13.6 million children globally under the age of 5 experiencing wasting because they do not have adequate nutrition.

The Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like 1,000 Days dedicated to preventing and treating malnutrition, makes nutrition an even higher priority by establishing a five-year strategy to institute precise and targeted reforms in U.S. global nutrition programs. It prioritizes investments in high-impact nutrition programs, such as prenatal vitamins, fortifying foods with essential nutrients (like Vitamin D, iron, and iodine), providing young children with vitamin A supplementation, supporting new mothers to breastfeed, and lifesaving treatment for severely malnourished children.

With this bill, the USAID administrators will be able to scale up the prevention and treatment of global malnutrition and coordinate with relevant public and private partners on these efforts. A Nutrition Leadership Council will be established with representatives from relevant inter- and intra-agency offices to coordinate USAID’s efforts and ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars. The USAID administrators will select priority countries to receive prioritized nutrition assistance and develop clear goals for increasing coverage of high-impact, evidence-based nutrition programs. USAID will be required to submit an annual report to Congress on the progress made toward preventing and treating global malnutrition.

“With the passing of this legislation, we believe the effectiveness of these nutrition programs can be significantly increased with greater strategic vision, accountability, integration, and coordination,” said Blythe Thomas, 1,000 Days of FHI Solutions Initiative Director.

The power to change lives

For example, large-scale vitamin A supplementation has played a major role in decreasing Senegal’s under-five mortality rate from 59 to 37 per 1,000 live births in 5 years. In Nepal through the Suaahara II program, USAID increased the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in supported communities from 45% to 71% in 5 years.

This Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act is an investment in the future of many lives and aims to address malnutrition at the core so that our most vulnerable populations have access to proper nutrition for continued health throughout the lifespan. As Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) stated “investing in global nutrition translates to lives saved.”

With both the House and Senate passage, we enthusiastically await the legislation being signed into law by President Biden.

1,000 days is proud to have supported this lifesaving bill and will continually engage with USAID and our partners as the act is implemented.

Multiple micronutrient supplements versus iron-folic acid supplements and maternal anemia outcomes: an iron dose analysis

Published: February 25, 2022

Publication: MMS in Pregnancy Technical Advisory Group, New York Academy of Sciences

Authors: Filomena Gomes, Rina Agustina, Robert E. Black, Parul Christian, Kathryn G. Dewey, Klaus Kraemer

Background

  • The World Health Organization currently recommends 30 to 60 mg of iron during pregnancy, with higher doses recommended in areas of high maternal anemia
    • Multiple micronutrient supplement (MMS) and iron folic acid (IFA) are both used to deliver iron during pregnancy
  • Comprehensive analysis was conducted examining 19 studies to address concerns related to 30mg of iron through MMS vs. 60mg of iron through IFA, with regard to maternal anemia outcomes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)

Summary

  • Of the 19 studies that were screened for inclusion, 11 were included and were part of the analyses of the three outcomes of interest:
    • Effect of MMS vs. IFA on maternal anemia in the third trimester
    • Effect of MMS vs. IFA on hemoglobin in the third trimester
    • Effect of MMS vs. IFA on iron deficiency anemia in the third trimester
  • When compared to 60 mg of IFA, MMS providing 30 mg of iron did not result in an increased risk of anemia, nor lower levels of hemoglobin, or increased risk of iron deficiency anemia
  • The included studies found that MMS with 30 mg of iron is comparable to IFA with 60 mg of iron with regard to these above-mentioned outcomes
  • MMS is known to have additional benefits in the risk of infant mortality at 6 months, low birthweight, preterm birth, born small-for-gestational age, and reduction of stillbirth. Greater reductions are found among anemic pregnant women so the data suggest that transitioning from IFA with 30 or 60 mg of iron to MMS with 30 mg of iron would not increase the risk of maternal anemia and has additional maternal/child health benefits.

Key Quotes

  • “Because MMS with 30 mg of iron influenced hemoglobin with clinically comparable results to IFA with 60 mg iron, and because MMS significantly improves fetal growth and survival, especially in anemic women, we suggest that policymakers in LMIC proceed with the transition from IFA to MMS.”

Read the original article here

Effect of multiple micronutrient supplements vs iron and folic acid supplements on neonatal mortality: a reanalysis by iron dose

Published: April 25, 2022

Publication: MMS in Pregnancy Technical Advisory Group, New York Academy of Sciences

Authors: Filomena Gomes, Rina Agustina, Robert E. Black, Parul Christian, Kathryn G. Dewey, Klaus Kraemer

Background

  • Multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) are a cost-effective method of delivering iron to a mother and fetus, as well as reducing adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, including anemia
  • However, there are concerns that MMS may increase the risk of neonatal mortality as compared to the use of iron and folic acid supplements (IFA), a similar prenatal vitamin

Summary

  • The study aimed to assess the effect of MMS vs. IFA on neonatal mortality stratified by iron dose in each supplement
  • The study authors updated the neonatal mortality analysis of the 2020 WHO guidelines to calculate the effects of MMS vs. IFA on neonatal mortality in subgroups that provided the same or different amounts of iron – varying amounts of MMS and IFA
  • The study found that there were no significant differences in neonatal mortality between MMS and IFA within any of the subgroups therefore, neonatal mortality did not differ between MMS and IFA regardless of iron dose in either supplement.

Read the original article here

Maternal and child undernutrition: consequences for adult health and human capital

Published: January 2008 

Publication: The Lancet 

Authors: Prof. Cesar G. Victora, M.D., Prof. Linda Adair, Ph.D., Prof. Caroline Fall, D.M., Pedro C Hallal, Ph.D., Prof. Reynaldo Martorell Ph.D., Prof. Linda Richter Ph.D., Prof. Harshpal Singh Sachdev, M.D., for the Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group 

Background

  • Previous studies have indicated that pre- and post-natal malnutrition can result in long term changes to the structure and functionality of the brain, impairing memory and learning in childhood and adolescence
    • There has been less emphasis on researching how malnutrition in the first year of life affects intellectual capacity across the lifespan
    • The “Barbados Nutrition Study” assessed IQ and academic skills in adults in Barbados who were born with a moderate birth rate, but experienced moderate to severe malnutrition in their first year of life
    • Individuals were enrolled in a nutritional health intervention program and monitored until they were at least 12 years of age to ensure they were in good health
    • The control group consisted of healthy individuals from the same neighborhoods and classrooms who did not experience malnourishment in their first year of life

Summary

  • Malnutrition in pregnancy and childhood can cause generational health problems 
  • Undernutrition in pregnant mothers and children was strongly associated with… 
    • Shorter adult height 
    • Less schooling 
    • Reduced economic productivity  
    • Lower offspring birthweight in women (birthweight is positively associated with lung function, the incidence of some cancers; undernutrition could be associated with mental illness) 
  • Lower weight and malnutrition in childhood followed by weight gain after two years of age was found to be risk factors for high glucose concentrations, elevated blood pressure and harmful lipid profiles once adult BMI and height were adjusted for, suggesting that rapid postnatal weight gain, after infancy, is linked to these conditions 

Key Quotes: 

  • “Poor fetal growth or stunting in the first 2 years of life leads to irreversible damage, including shorter adult height, lower attained schooling, reduced adult income, and decreased offspring birthweight.” 
  • “Children who are undernourished in the first 2 years of life and who put on weight rapidly later in childhood and in adolescence are at high risk of chronic diseases related to nutrition.” 
  • “We conclude that damage suffered in early life leads to permanent impairment, and might also affect future generations.” 

Read the original article here

Impaired IQ and academic skills in adults who experienced moderate to severe infantile malnutrition: a forty-year study

Published: Nov. 26, 2013

Publication: National Library of Medicine

Authors: Deborah P. Waber, Ph.D., Cyralene P. Bryce, M.D., Jonathan M. Girard, B.A., Miriam Zichlin, B.S., Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, Sc.D., and Janina R. Galler, M.D.

Background

  • Previous studies have indicated that pre- and post-natal malnutrition can result in long term changes to the structure and functionality of the brain, impairing memory and learning in childhood and adolescence
  • There has been less emphasis on researching how malnutrition in the first year of life affects intellectual capacity across the lifespan
  • The “Barbados Nutrition Study” assessed IQ and academic skills in adults in Barbados who were born with a moderate birth rate, but experienced moderate to severe malnutrition in their first year of life
  • Individuals were enrolled in a nutritional health intervention program and monitored until they were at least 12 years of age to ensure they were in good health
  • The control group consisted of healthy individuals from the same neighborhoods and classrooms who did not experience malnourishment in their first year of life

Summary

  • While previously malnourished individuals were able to catch up physically to their healthy peers, their cognitive and behavioral development lagged behind 
  • IQ scores in the intellectual disability range were 9 times more prevalent in the previously malnourished group 
  • Previously malnourished individuals had lower IQs, lower grades in school, and higher rates of attention problems. They also suffered from intellectual disabilities at a higher rate than their healthy peers. 
  • Malnutrition during the first year of life carries risk for significant lifelong functional morbidity.  

Key Facts: 

  • The estimated difference in IQ between the two groups was 15 points when tested as adolescents and 18 points when tested as adults 
  • 26.3 percent of individuals in the previously malnourished group had IQs indicating intellectual disabilities compared to only 3 percent in the control group 

Read the original article here

Long term consequences of early childhood malnutrition

Published: December 2003 

Publication: International Food Policy Research Institution 

Authors: Harold Alderman, John Hoddinott, Bill Kinsey 

Background

  • Researchers studied the preschool nutritional status (measured by height, given age) of children in Zimbabwe who experienced civil unrest and/or a drought before the age of three
  • Civil war and droughts were used as an indicator of malnourishment
  • Nutritional status was then compared to subsequent health and education achievements of these children to show the effects of early-childhood malnutrition on adult outcomes

Summary

  • The study indicates that early childhood malnutrition can lead to continued stunting and lower school achievement in adolescence as compared to peers who experienced no malnutrition or a lesser degree of malnutrition in childhood
  • Children who measured at median height in preschool were more likely to measure at median height by adolescence and have completed an additional 0.7 grades of schooling than students who measured below median height in preschool
  • This study also indicates that improving preschool nutrition can facilitate growth and higher educational achievement in adolescence
  • Because of the negative impact of “shocks” (i.e. war and drought), interventions should focus on mitigating the impact of these shocks.

Read the original article here

A Conversation with Action Against Hunger

Blythe Thomas, Initiative Director at 1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions, recently spoke with Dr. Charles Owubah, CEO of Action Against Hunger, to discuss the vital work of his organization to detect, treat and prevent malnutrition. The two discussed the effects of COVID and climate change on food and nutrition, the role of women farmers in ending malnutrition, and LifePack, an innovative tool to raise money for malnutrition treatment.

Watch the video to learn more. 

The importance of food systems and the environment for nutrition

Published: 24 November 2020

Publication: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Authors: Jessica Fanzo, Alexandra L Bellows, Marie L Spiker, Andrew L Thorne-Lyman, and Martin W Bloem

Read the original paper here.

Summary 

  • Food systems contribute to and are vulnerable to ongoing climate and environmental changes that threaten their sustainability
  • We’re going to need more research to tell us what food policy changes we should make to ensure everyone has access to nutritious food despite the impacts of climate change.
  • We need to think about this key question: how can both human and planetary health thrive while meeting the demands of a growing human population, and if we can’t have it all, what trade-offs are we willing to live with?

Background

  • Food systems involve the production, processing, packaging, distribution, marketing, purchasing, consumption, and waste of food.
  • By “transforming” (improving) food systems, we could make healthy food more accessible and reduce environmental impact 
  • We need a lot more research to figure out how best to structure this transformation
  • Silos within the field make this research harder

Research Gaps

The impact of climate change on food systems

  • The link between climate and food systems is getting more and more attention, but there are still a lot of gaps in our knowledge. Specifically, we need more research on:
    •  The “missing middle” of the food supply chain (aka anything other than people’s diets and agricultural production) 
    • How climate change will affect non-staple crops (most research to date has only looked at staple crops).
    • How to create context-specific policies (eg. financial incentives, targeted messaging campaigns etc.) that encourage/allow people to eat sustainable diets and how to measure whether these policies are working:

Food systems 

  • Diets. We need more information on:  
    • The best way to measure how sustainable someone’s diet is
    • How people’s diets are changing as incomes rise
    • Healthy, locally appropriate, and sustainable diets are sometimes at odds with one another. How should we prioritize?
      • “One of the shortcomings of the EAT–Lancet Commission report was that it provided a single healthy reference diet for the world, and did not take into account that healthy and sustainable diets may differ in their availability, accessibility, and cost at the global, regional, and individual levels. Even more so, what is considered healthy is not always sustainable, and what is considered a sustainable diet is not always a healthy one.”
  • Food safety. We need more information on:
    • The danger of using pesticides and chemicals, and whether these dangers affect consumer purchases.
    • The danger of plastics (in food packaging, production etc.).
  • Food loss and waste.  We need more information on:
    • How to measure and reduce food waste/loss.

Interesting Stats

  • “Some models suggest that changes in food availability due to climate change, specifically reduced availability of fruit and vegetables, are estimated to result in an additional 529,000 deaths by 2050.”
  • “Globally, agriculture and livestock production utilize ∼40% of arable land account for ∼70% of fresh water withdrawn for human purposes, and are responsible for ∼11% of GHG emissions (although some estimates range from 11% to 24% depending on what is counted).”
  • “​​Food wasted at the retail and consumer levels alone averages 1217 calories, 33 g protein, 6 g fiber, and 286 g Ca per person per day.”

Figure: Link between food systems and the environment

The COVID-19 crisis will exacerbate maternal and child undernutrition and child mortality in low- and middle-income countries

Published: July 2021

Publication: Nature Food

Authors: Saskia Osendarp, Jonathan Kweku Akuoku , Robert E. Black , Derek Headey, Marie Ruel , Nick Scott , Meera Shekar, Neff Walker, Augustin Flory , Lawrence Haddad, David Laborde , Angela Stegmuller , Milan Thomas  and Rebecca Heidkamp

Read the original paper here.

Summary:

  • COVID-related disruptions to food and health systems mean cases of malnutrition around the world are likely to get worse.
    • People also have less money and therefor are turning to less expensive sources of calories such as starchy staples and eating fewer nutrient-dense foods.
  • The study authors used statistical models to predict what these disruptions would do to malnutrition rates.
  • They calculated “optimistic”, “moderate” and “pessimistic” outcomes.
  • After the paper’s publication, the authors stated the pessimistic outcomes are the most likely.
  • Using the pessimistic model as the authors recommend, they predict that by the end of 2022, COVID-19-related disruptions could result in an additional:
    • 13.6  million wasted children 
    • 3.6 million stunted children 
    • 283,000 additional child deaths
    • 4.8 million maternal anaemia cases
    • 3 million children born to women with a low BMI 
    • US$44.3 billion in future productivity losses due to excess stunting and child mortality.
  • To make up for the demands of the projected undernutrition increases, the authors predict we will need an additional $1.7 billion per year.
  • The report also predicts that ODA for nutrition will be 19% less through 2030 than it would have been without COVID, accompanied by a similar decrease in domestic health budgets.
  • We could save a lot of babies from being born small, preterm or stillbirth by a) switching the prenatal vitamins we give out from iron folic acid (IFA) to multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) and b) Give balanced energy and protein supplements to malnourished pregnant women.
  • The report argues1 that fewer children would be impacted if we move funding away from providing complementary foods and instead allocate resources toward:
    • Balanced energy protein supplementation
    • Breastfeeding promotion
    • IYCF counseling at 6–23 months of age in food-secure households
    • Wasting treatment
    • Vitamin A supplementation

  • These numbers should make it clear to decision makers that the pandemic is causing levels of undernutrition to rise in LMICs and that we need to urgently increase ODA and domestic funding to address this crisis.

Key Quotes:

  • “The COVID-19 pandemic has created a nutritional crisis in LMICs. Without swift and strategic responses by subnational, national, regional and international actors, COVID-19 will not only reverse years of progress and exacerbate disparities in disease, malnutrition and mortality, but will also jeopardize human capital development and economic growth for the next generation.”
  • “While women of reproductive age and young children are largely spared COVID-19’s direct effects (that is, serious disease and death), our projections demonstrate that, regardless of the scenario, the COVID-19 crisis is expected to have dramatic indirect effects on maternal and child undernutrition and child mortality in the current generation.”
  • “The nutritional impacts of the COVID-19 crisis could have massive, long-term productivity consequences that could extend to future generations. Poor nutrition during early life stunts both physical and cognitive development, affects schooling performance and adult productivity, increases the risks of overweight/obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases later in life, and triggers the intergenerational transmission of malnutrition.”

1 The article notes that “The optimal results and allocative efficiency gains will vary across countries, depending on demographics, epidemiological factors and baseline intervention coverages, as well as context-specific costs, priority targets, delivery platforms and other constraints.”

Scaling Up Impact on Nutrition: What Will It Take?

Published: 07 July 2015

Publication: Advances in Nutrition

Authors: Stuart Gillespie, Purnima Menon, and Andrew L Kennedy

Read the original paper here.

Summary:

  • Even though scaling is important to the nutrition community, people have different ideas about what the term means. 
  • If we’re going to successfully scale nutrition interventions, we need a clear and consistent definition of what the word means.
  • This paper analyses 36 scaling frameworks (from multiple sectors), and distills these frameworks into nine “critical elements” for successfully scaling nutrition projects:
  1. Have a vision/goal:  From the beginning, it is important that everyone agrees on what the project is trying to achieve and how you will measure success. 
  2. Focus on evidence-based interventions: only scale interventions that have already been tested and that are effective at a smaller scale.  
  3. Context matters.  Make sure that any programs you try to scale take into account all the challenges and opportunities of the surrounding environment (policies, institutions, culture etc.). If there are big barriers, make sure your intervention can work around them or don’t scale it there. 
  4. Drivers for scale up include high-level political support, an engaged nutrition champion to spark support, national and local ownership of the intervention, and performance incentives for individual frontline workers or  whole organizations.
  5. Identify scaling-up strategy, processes, and pathways: Be clear about exactly what you’re trying to scale and how you’re going to do it. These measures can be quantitative (expansion in geographical coverage, budget, or size), functional (increase in types of activities and integration with other programs), political (increases in political power and engagement), and organizational (strengthened organization capacity)
  6. Make sure there is strategic and operational capacity to scale up.  Capacity can be improved through nutrition leadership and training.
  7. Governance:  Recognize that successful scaling means managing trade-offs (for example between demonstrating short-term success and building sustainable systems) and make sure governments at different levels have a coherent way of working together.
  8. Financing:  Not only do you need to have enough money, but that money needs to be reliable and flexible. Interventions also cost different amounts depending where you are, so wherever possible make sure your budget is based on local data and prices.
  9. Monitoring, evaluation, learning, and accountability:  We need a lot more evidence on the impact of and lessons learned from scaling. Make sure to collect and disseminate data as you go.