At MNF we believe that the world’s most cost–effective health interventions cannot continue to be overlooked.
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need in only tiny amounts to enable us to grow, develop and strengthen our immunity. Without them, we have much lower resistance to disease.
A variety of impactful and cost-effective interventions exist that can improve access and intake of micronutrients. This is particularly essential when it becomes difficult to do so through diets.
- Diets rich in nutrients can be obtained by eating a diverse, and varied diet, with sufficient daily intakes of fresh fruits and vegetables. Increasingly, more and more people worldwide find it difficult to access and afford healthy and nutritiously diverse diets. Climate change and soil quality greatly affect the nutrient content of foods. Ultimately, transformation along global and local food value chains is required to make sustainable and nutritionally rich diets a reality for the billions of people locked out of the food system.
- Support exclusive breastfeeding and women nutrition during lactation. Lactating women also may need additional micronutrients to support their own health and the health of their breastfed newborn. Micronutrient supplements, if tailored to lactating women’s needs, can provide lactating women with the right amount of nutrients when diets fall short.
- Large Scale Food Fortification is enacted in national legislation around the world to ensure that edible food staples (flour, oils, rice, salt, sugar, milk) are fortified with vitamins and minerals for population level reach. Salt iodization has helped to reduce global iodine deficiencies around the world, while fortifying wheat flour with iron and folic acid has helped to combat iron deficiency anemia.
- Biofortification refers to breeding widely consumed staple crops such as wheat, rice, beans, and maize to increase their intrinsic micronutrient content, while also optimizing their yield and resistance to stresses such as drought and pests.
- Micronutrient supplementation provides people with a single micronutrient (iodine, iron, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc) or multiple micronutrients as powders, capsules, tablets, drops, or syrup.
- Antenatal multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS) offers distinct benefits from taking iron folic acid during pregnancy. Pregnancy is especially important for micronutrient health, for both mother and her unborn child. MMS has been shown to have higher impacts than Iron Folic Acid (IFA) on:
- Reducing small for gestational age
- Reducing low birth weight
- Reducing the risk of still birth
- Fortified complimentary foods in targeted nutrition programs to reach vulnerable populations in emergencies. These are essentially high energy and protein foods with the right levels of micronutrients added. Typically, they are given to children who are underweight and malnourished in varying doses based on needs when diets are not adequate in nutrients.
- Micronutrient powders (MNPs) are single serving sachets used in home cooking to add micronutrients when foods are ready to eat. When used in school meals programs, MNPs provide the nutrients that children need to ensure their best possible growth and development.
In addition to scaling investment in micronutrient interventions, far greater investment is needed across food, health, and social protection systems to ensure that the underlying causes of micro-nutrient deficiencies are addressed and to ensure that all people have access to health care and social services. COVID-19 has exposed weakness in systems, where greater, targeted investment could prevent more people from becoming micro-nutritionally deficient.
For example, the lack of antenatal and postnatal services for pregnant and lactating women in many lower- and middle-income countries continues to be a pervasive challenge for far too many women.
For more on food systems change go to our Food Systems and UN Food System Summit overview.