Micronutrients Offering a Macro Perspective: HPC Fellow, Allie King, PATH
Allie King is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH. At PATH, she is contributing to a publication on rice fortification in India and reflecting on the importance of government support of public health initiatives in her blog. Read on to learn about her placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.
My time spent working in clinical hospital laboratories and witnessing our ever growing population of sick people is what originally fueled my desire to pursue a career focused on supporting foundational aspects of health. For me, the most logical progression to this objective was pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition and training to become a Registered Dietitian.
In my first year of graduate school, I delved deep into individual, community, and country-wide health and nutrition concerns. But, a gap in my studies emerged when I realized just how little I knew about global health and malnutrition. When I found PATH, an international non-profit health organization working to accelerate progress in global health systems and technology, I was intrigued to explore nutrition on a much larger scale. My time spent at PATH vastly broadened my worldview and knowledge of the globalization of food systems. My fellowship turned out to be exactly what I needed to take my education and career to the next level. On the Nutrition Innovation team, I was fortunate to witness and take part in the teamwork and collaboration required in striving for a more nourished and healthy community worldwide.
As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow on the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH, I researched and co-authored a journal publication on rice fortification, using data from a case-control study conducted in the Gujarat state of India. Specifically, my research focused on government mandated rice fortification, implemented through the midday meal program (a social safety net program in India), and its potential to address anemia and poor hemoglobin status as well as improve cognitive function and school attendance in children.
Currently, millions of people in India suffer from chronic malnutrition where an estimated 75% of women and children are micronutrient deficient. Malnutrition and stunting in childhood coupled with concurrent micronutrient deficits negatively impact human growth and development. And, while rampant micronutrient deficiency continues to be a pervasive threat to global health, staple food fortification offers a cost-effective approach with next to zero noticeable changes for consumers. Specifically, food fortification has demonstrated the ability to improve measures of health such as physical endurance, cognitive function, and biomarkers including hemoglobin and various serum levels of micronutrients.
So the data shows that food fortification helps people access vital nutrients to improve health outcomes…. seems simple right? While the scientific evidence demonstrates fortification’s benefits to tackling the issue of malnutrition, an equally challenging and important task is ensuring these foods are available and affordable for impoverished, undernourished populations. My time spent at PATH highlighted the need to promote this technology and improve access to nutritious food through government mandated programs, as this is the most successful channel to reach those with the greatest need. Government support of social programs that utilize fortified foods have the benefit of positively impacting nutrition and health at a population level.
From my fellowship, I have gained a greater appreciation for the degree of quality research and time required to promote progress in our food systems and address malnutrition globally. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to contribute to the growing body of research demonstrating the benefits of food fortification through social safety nets and government initiatives. Supporting our worldwide effort for better health outcomes and a brighter future for our children is possible through the evidence-based, systems level approach of organizations like PATH. I am so thankful to PATH and the Hilton Prize Coalition for providing me the opportunity to enhance my professional skills and further my education.
(Photos courtesy of PATH. Photo features a child given oral rehydration solution with a spoon in a health center in Kampong Thom province in Cambodia.)
About the Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. The Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.
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