Nutrition for a Better Tomorrow: Scaling Up Delivery of Micronutrient Powders for Infants and Young Children

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Abstract

Around the world, the diets of hundreds of millions of children are critically deficient in essential micronutrients such as iodine, iron, and Vitamin A. Sustained deficiencies – particularly during the critical “1,000 days” time period between conception and age two – can devastate the physical, cognitive, and behavioral development of a child.1 The pervasiveness of these deficiencies in high-burden countries – for example, 70 percent of children in India are thought to be anemic2 – can translate into society-wide economic constraints, shaving up to approximately two percentage points off potential GDP due to cognitive and physical productivity losses.3

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is the most prevalent form of micronutrient deficiency and the primary driver behind about 50 percent of the approximately 300 million4 anemia cases among children.5 In the past, children at risk for anemia were given iron syrups and drops,6 but adherence challenges prompted a recent search for an innovative solution.

Micronutrient powders (MNPs) – frequently referred to by the brand name Sprinkles – were invented as a low-cost substitute product with improved acceptability and adherence.7 Easily mixed by caregivers into homemade foods, MNPs were first endorsed in 2007 to improve the iron and anemia status of populations affected by emergencies;8 this endorsement was clarified and formalized in a 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) guideline as a strongly recommended public health intervention.