The 1,000 days between conception and a child’s second birthday are critical to a child’s physical health and cognitive development, and have long term consequences for the rest of the child’s life. While it is widely accepted that childhood nutrition is important in this period, the most effective methods for preventing undernutrition in areas facing food insecurity are less well understood. For this reason, the Earth Institute has partnered with the organization TABLE FOR TWO to explore the effects of different strategies to help young children get the vital nutrients needed for growth.
With generous support from TABLE FOR TWO, Earth Institute scientists have begun a research study in the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) in Ruhiira, Uganda, to evaluate different methods for delivering nutrition to young children in rural, low-income settings. Due to targeted interventions in agriculture and health infrastructure, the prevalence of childhood malnutrition in Ruhiira has shown some decline, but still remains high. The study will examine whether the introduction of direct complementary feeding interventions of different types can help to reduce stunting, an irreversible condition caused by chronic malnutrition during the critical first 1,000 days of life.
This innovative project will assess the effectiveness of three approaches to improving nutrition in children under two, including a comparison of the effects of different types of fortified food supplements against interventions designed to increase the intake of locally available nutritious foods. One of the supplements, developed by Nutriset and the International Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements (iLiNS) working group, is a ready-to-use fortified supplement developed specifically to help meet the nutritional needs of young children and will be produced by the company Edesia. Researchers will examine a number of criteria to judge the success of each of the interventions including the effects on stunting, the ability to integrate each of the interventions into existing systems and acceptability of each of the approaches by the population. Developed with advisory support from The World Food Programme, the results of this trial will help to inform national and global policies for improving child health and nutrition.
Thanks to the support of TABLE FOR TWO, the Earth Institute will come closer to achieving the shared objectives of reducing childhood malnutrition and creating evidence-based, scalable interventions that may one day help children throughout sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.