It’s estimated that micronutrient malnutrition affects approximately 2 billion people worldwide. Deficiencies in various micronutrients can lead to impaired physical and cognitive development, poor pregnancy outcomes, a weakened immune system, anemia, night blindness, and even death. For more than a decade, FANTA has been a key contributor to the global effort to reduce micronutrient deficiencies through the development of new methods to identify dietary gaps, through research on the impact of nutrient supplements on the health status of vulnerable populations, and through dissemination of the latest pertinent information.
This June, health experts from around the world will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the weeklong 2014 Micronutrient Forum Global Conference to share the latest information on the design and implementation of programs aimed at reducing micronutrient malnutrition. At this year’s Forum, FANTA’s Ethiopia Project Manager, Dr. Telahun Teka, will moderate a session on multisector engagement to reduce micronutrient deficiencies in vulnerable populations.
FANTA’s recent efforts to address the global burden of micronutrient deficiencies include contributing to the development of software called Optifood, which can be used to identify local food combinations that can fill (or come as close as possible to filling) micronutrient gaps based on a population’s typical diet. Optifood results can then be used to develop recommendations on cost-effective approaches to increase the consumption of foods that would close those gaps. “We start with what people eat every day and then identify what other foods can be accessed locally to affordably improve the micronutrient adequacy of their diet,” says Gilles Bergeron, Deputy Director at FANTA for Country Programs. “Still, for some micronutrients, fortified foods or micronutrient supplements are needed to completely fill the gaps.”
FANTA is investigating new and effective ways to prevent and reduce women’s and children’s micronutrient deficiencies through dietary supplementation. Through this research, FANTA is documenting the impact of nutrient-dense food supplements on micronutrient deficiencies that will help guide programs on effective approaches to reduce morbidity and mortality and improve birth outcomes and child growth.