Essential Micronutrients for Maternal and Child Health
This project was named a Global Finalist in the prestigious Katerva Awards, and was cited by The White House as an example of Scientists Without Borders’s effective model of bringing game-changing innovations to global development challenges.
Undernutrition is among the most serious and least addressed global health and development problems, causing an estimated 3.5 million preventable maternal and child deaths each year. Interventions to prevent undernutrition are relatively low-cost and provide high returns – most notably by reducing micronutrient deficiencies in women of childbearing age—yet progress in this area lags.
We convened a diverse panel of creative problem-solvers to help identify a specific focus area where we could generate high-impact ideas. We targeted maternal folic acid (FA) deficiency, which can profoundly contribute to infant mortality, and is crucial in preventing neural tube defects. Although research demonstrates that food-based approaches to FA supplementation are the most effective in increasing folic acid intake among women of child-bearing age, most developing countries have few, if any, common food-based sources of folic acid. Just 51 countries, mostly in the developing world, have country-level staple food fortification policies.
The panel framed an incentive-based Scientists Without Borders open innovation Challenge that sought "effective at-home or community-based methods that would allow women to easily, affordably, and safely fortify staple foods with folic acid—in a manner that fits in with their lifestyle, routines, and that did not require significant behavioral or cultural changes.” Our partner, PepsiCo, sponsored the $10,000 prize for winning ideas, and we publicized the challenge through our global network and the InnoCentive worldwide solver network.
More than 60 solutions were submitted from 21 countries, with over a third coming from developing countries. The winning solution was devised by Carlos Miranda, who proposed triple-fortifying salt with folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12.