It has been a busy few months for GAIN’s researchers, with some great results. Covering social marketing in Brazil, nutrition education in China, and vitamin A supplementation globally, our papers featured in Nutrients, the Journal of Food Products Marketing, and the Journal of Biomedical and Environmental Sciences. And that’s not all – read our joint statement with the Ministry of Health and Population in Egypt, UNICEF, WHO, and the Iodine Global Network (IGN) on Egypt’s iodine survey 2014-2015.
Brazil is facing serious micronutrient deficiency issues; 18 per cent of children under 5 years of age have vitamin A deficiency and an estimated 40 per cent are anaemic. Pregnant women do not fare any better, with 29 per cent of them suffering from anaemia. However, not all is lost. As the largest producer of rice outside Asia, Brazil could capitalize on its dynamic food market and the Brazilians’ love for all things rice to fight micronutrient deficiency through fortification. Add a social marketing campaign featuring the Brazilian Walt Disney Mauricio de Sousa and the footballer Lucas Moura, and you have GAIN’s and PATH’s project to generate demand for the fortified rice brand Arroz Vitaminado. Between 2011 and 2014, PATH and GAIN, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), tested a commercial model to scale-up production and distribution of fortified rice to address micronutrient deficiencies in Brazil. The aim was to develop a commercial market for fortified rice via local private sector partners and pre-existing commercial distribution channels. Driving the project was a social marketing strategy that aimed to increase awareness of micronutrient deficiencies and food fortification, and to stimulate the purchase of fortified rice. In doing so, the project relied on endorsements by Brazilian influencers, including beloved cartoonists and footballers, point-of-sale events, and online campaigns. Are you curious to see how the campaign fared? Read more here.
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is one of the most prevalent micronutrient deficiencies globally. However, the relevance of vitamin A supplementation (VAS) has come into question recently. Amidst this debate researchers from several international organizations and universities, including GAIN, examined data from 82 countries implementing VAS programs to assess the recentness of national vitamin A deficiency data. This endeavour is important, because the majority of nationally-representative data on VAD is outdated; in turn, outdated data can lead countries to scale down VAS programs prematurely. As such, the research findings are thought-provoking. For example, two-thirds of the 82 countries either lacked data on VAD or relied on information older than 10 years. What can be done? The study recommends countries implementing vitamin A supplementation programs to: 1) measure the vitamin A status in children at least every 10 years; 2) consider scaling down VAS as an option where VAD prevalence has been consistently low; and 3) pay more attention to the information gaps in their countries so they can make evidence-based decisions.
It is estimated that more than 200 million Chinese people are suffering from anaemia, with iron deficiency identified as a significant driver. Can nutrition education help tackle the issue? This is what a group of researchers from Zhejiang Province asked themselves. In 2004, iron-fortified soy sauce was made available in six provinces and municipalities in China, with the administrative support from the Ministry of Health of China and funding from GAIN. Following the program, the Government of China pioneered a social marketing pilot to increase consumer awareness of and change their behaviour towards iron-fortified soy sauce. Two districts – one rural, one urban – in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, were selected as pilot intervention sites to promote the use of iron-fortified soy sauce. The campaign included conferences, media coverage and educational activities about iron deficiency and its associated health risks. The results are encouraging. One year after the pilot, the knowledge and purchasing rates of iron-fortified soy sauce improved in urban and rural areas, and anaemia prevalence had reduced by 32% in urban subjects and 31% in rural subjects. Read the full results here.
Egypt has made significant progress in tackling iodine deficiency in the past decade. The findings of an iodine survey conducted in 2014-2015 by the Ministry of Health and Population in Egypt, in collaboration with GAIN, UNICEF, WHO, and the Iodine Global Network (IGN), show that household coverage of iodized salt reached 92.5%. Nevertheless, work still remains to be done to counter iodine deficiency, the single greatest cause of preventable mental impairment globally. Indeed, the distribution of household salt and iodine levels varies; metropolitan areas have the highest household coverage of adequately iodized salt (82.9%) and rural regions the lowest (69.6%). To achieve universal salt iodization, the study makes a series of recommendations regarding awareness raising, quality control, regulatory frameworks, and private sector mobilization. Read them here.
Published 6 April 2017