Featured stories from the web
20 December 2017, World Health Organization
Russian bloggers, media representatives and policy-makers gathered at a WHO event in Moscow to hear experts and researchers explain how iodine deficiency in pregnancy affects development of the child’s brain.
This event kicked off a social media campaign for healthy pregnancy, launched by WHO to underline the critical importance of nutrition and physical activity for pregnant women. The campaign specifically highlights the need to ensure that iodine levels are met during pregnancy to prevent the development of intellectual disabilities in children.
Iodine is a micronutrient that is difficult to obtain in a normal diet during pregnancy and infancy, given the higher requirements. The consequences are serious − iodine deficiency is the most preventable cause of brain damage and intellectual disability in children.
It’s something that affects all of us, in fact, if you don’t consume it then you die, sodium chloride, better known as the food additive, salt. But in many countries, iodized salt, (which is salt fortified with the mineral iodine) remains the difference between a baby born with mental retardation or not. The issue remains a global problem and it is a significant burden to public health across the world most notably in the Western world.
Even moderate deficiency, especially in pregnant women and infants, lowers intelligence by 10 to 15 I.Q. points, shaving incalculable potential off an individual’s or an entire nation’s development. Places like Israel and the UK count many women at risk of developing health problems in themselves such as thyroid dysfunction or more importantly in their offspring if they do not have adequate iodine intake prior to and during pregnancy. In France, for example, they don’t even allow the use of iodized salt in any processed foods, thereby neglecting the population of a potential source of iodine.
by Cres Eastman, Professor of Medicine, Sydney Medical School
When will we ever learn? After the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study results were released in 2012 there was widespread surprise and disbelief to discover that Australian children had performed poorly compared with many other countries.
This was most marked when measured against most of our neighbours within Asia. Blame was heaped upon our teachers, rundown schools, overcrowding in classrooms, lack of government funding and so on. The latest 2016 TIMSS report released last week shows Australian children sliding further down the league table.
Despite positive developments in reducing malnutrition over the last few decades, hundreds of millions of people globally still do not consume adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets to sustain good health and development. This is referred to as “hidden hunger,”
a major public health problem that is holding back entire communities.
by Savanna Henderson, Humanitas Global
Though iodine was among the first nutrients recognized as vital to humans today, deficiency affects 780 million people worldwide. Inadequate intake of iodine can result in a number of disorders including: miscarriage, stillbirths, cretinism (permanent, severe mental retardation, deaf-mutism and motor spasticity disorders), goiters, impaired mental function, retarded physical development and hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency disorder is the leading cause of preventable brain damage in children worldwide and deficiency alone can lead to IQ levels 10 to 15 points lower than those with adequate levels of iodine consumption.
by Molly Anders (@mollyanders_dev)
In 2005 the Vietnamese government had a lot to celebrate: 90 percent of households were using iodized salt, and the iodine levels of women and children under 5 were in optimum range. Vietnam has historically worked hard in the fight against iodine deficiency — the leading cause for preventable brain damage in newborns and infants. The country passed its first iodine legislation in 1970 — but tweaks to their legislation had boosted progress, and in 2005 the World Health Organization pointed to Vietnam as a model for success in salt iodization. But only three years later, their progress had taken a U-turn. Results of a nationwide household survey showed coverage had fallen by almost a third — more than 30 years of progress undone in five.
by Molly Anders (@mollyanders_dev)
For fortified foods to reach the consumers most in need, the market must shift from a “push” to a “pull” industry, top experts at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Iodine Global Network, Tata Chemicals Ltd. and others told Devex on the sidelines of the GAIN #FutureFortified Summit in Arusha, Tanzania.
“It all has to be driven in the end by the consumer, so that what we have is aspirational products, products that are affordable and are doing the right job,” said Wokko B.J. Wientjes, vice president of sustainability and public-private partnerships at Royal DSM.
As we celebrate the achievements under the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals and look to accelerate progress with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, a silent epidemic is afflicting more than a quarter of humanity — 2 billion people — around the world. It accounts for 11 percent of the global burden of disease. This epidemic disproportionately harms young children and in some of its forms causes 1 in 5 maternal deaths. Unlike with climate change, cancer or global conflicts, ending this epidemic is well within our grasp; in fact, the cure has existed for almost a century, and it costs pennies per person.
The Ministry of Trade in Senegal and MI recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the aim of providing more people in West Africa access to adequately iodized salt. It may seem odd – a formal agreement between a trade ministry and a global nutrition organization, but there is an important connection: MI works not only with the Ministry of Health, but also closely with the Ministry of Trade because the success of salt iodization efforts in the region depends on it. We support the Senegalese efforts to expand the regional market for salt in a way that will help combat iodine deficiency, increase access to adequately iodized salt for the most vulnerable, create jobs, and maximize economic development. This is a win-win approach where development and trade objectives come together.
11 June 2015, The Life You Can Save By Jonathan Gorstein and Greg S. Garrett
The Life You Can Save and GiveWell recently highlighted the critical importance of iodine nutrition by recommending not one but two non-profit organizations working on iodine interventions: the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the Iodine Global Network (IGN). So why is iodine nutrition important, and why right now?
With the launch of the sustainable development goals now just months away, we have a unique and important opportunity to secure the commitment and support for proven and scalable interventions that can have a transformative impact in reducing malnutrition. Poor nutrition is one of the biggest global challenges of our time. Today, 2 billion people — that’s 1 in 3 people on the planet — suffer from micronutrient deficiency, otherwise known as “hidden hunger.”
“WHAT charity will give me the biggest bang for my buck?” asks Elie Hassenfeld. In 2007 the former hedge-fund manager co-founded GiveWell, a non-profit organisation set up to answer that question for the growing number of donors who want to know how much good their cash will do before deciding which charity to entrust it to. GiveWell researches charities active in fields where there is strong evidence that great good can be done for a modest cost, such as cutting the incidence of malaria and treating children for parasites. The most effective are published in a list of “best buys”.
Good Ventures, the foundation of Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna, is only a few years old, and it's already made some big bets, most notably on GiveDirectly, which touts direct cash assistance as the best answer to poverty. But the foundation remains a work in progress with a wandering eye. And that's a good thing, because it means that it's open to new areas of grantmaking—like fighting iodine deficiency, a crucial global health issue that often gets ignored by funders.
According to the new Global Hunger Index (GHI), 805 million people in the world suffer from chronic hunger. This number is a slightly lower estimate than in previous years, and shows that the world is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015 relative to 1990 levels. Still, these findings, along with the shocking number that more than 2 billion people are malnourished and suffer from lack of micronutrients, also demonstrate how important it is that the post-2015 development goals focus on better nutrition and eradication of hunger much further.
Of all the issues that call for our attention, nutrition is exactly the right issue to focus on. Not only is under-nutrition the largest single contributor to child mortality worldwide, it is also morally wrong that in a world with sufficient food, more than 800 million remain hungry. But the most important reason we ought to focus on nutrition is the one you haven't heard. It simply turns out that nutrition is the best way to spend a dollar to do good in the world.