THE BIGGEST “MISSED OPPORTUNITY” IN GLOBAL HEALTH?

IMPROVING NUTRITION.

Undernutrition is an underlying cause of an estimated 53 percent of all under-five deaths.

The World Health Report, World Health Organization (WHO)

Undernutrition is an underlying cause of an estimated 53 percent of all under-five deaths.

The World Health Report, World Health Organization (WHO)

The first 180 days of a child’s life are the most critical.

The first 1,000 days following conception are the most important period affecting a child’s development. Of those, the first 180 days are most critical.

During this time, pregnant women need essential micronutrients, including folic acid for neural tube development, iron for oxygen transport and red blood cell formation, calcium, and vitamin A and vitamin D to control maternal blood pressure, ensure healthy bone development for the baby, prevent pre-eclampsia and low birthweight, and promote eyesight and strong immune system function.

Unfortunately, too many women in low-and-middle-income countries (LMIC) lack access to these basic micronutrients and are at risk of dying during childbirth and delivering low-birthweight babies who are, in turn, at risk for having poor health and dying before the age of five. This is Stage One of the significant “missed opportunity” of which Bill Gates spoke.

Currently, the World Health Organization only recommends iron and folic acid supplementation in LMIC, while national guidelines in the U.S., Canada and Europe recommend that all pregnant and lactating women take the full suite of supplements containing 15 essential micronutrients.

Good nutrition during a child’s first 1,000 days, starting from conception, is critical to the ability to grow, learn and thrive.

Micronutrients during pregnancy can help prevent adverse outcomes – like the heartbreak of a mother who must bury her newborn.

Research has shown that prenatal vitamins are found to be particularly effective in preventing adverse outcomes in anemic women – a finding which is particularly important for women in countries like India and Bangladesh where more than half are anemic, and birth complications are common – and where access to prenatal vitamins is virtually non-existent.

Fighting malnourishment should be the top priority for policy-makers and philanthropists.

Third Copenhagen Consensus

Fighting malnourishment should be the top priority for policy-makers and philanthropists.

Third Copenhagen Consensus