Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding nutritional supplement project for pregnant Nepalese women
According to a press release from the university, the grant will fund a four-year project that will assess how to enhance early infant development, and focus on how energy and protein supplements affect infant health in pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
The project will be led by global health department chair and global health professor James Tielsch, whose team includes researchers from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
A cycle of under-nutrition
Women in Nepal and other South Asian cities often suffer from under-nutrition, leading to diabetes and heart disease for their children later in life.
In fact, 30% to 40% of foetuses in Nepal are smaller than they should be because of undernourished expectant mothers, Tielsch stated in the release.
He added that women who grew up stunted tend to give birth to smaller babies, and need better nutrition while pregnant and during the first six months after delivery to improve their babies' health and the quality of their breast milk.
He said: "In this project, we hope to identify a nutritional supplement that could reduce that percentage, and help Nepalese women get the nutrients they need to deliver a healthy baby and improve their growth in those important first six months of life."
The team will therefore be testing a nutritional supplement on 1,800 expectant mothers in Nepal's Sarlahi District by assigning them to four groups: a control group on a regular diet, a group given daily supplements during pregnancy and the six months after delivery, another given daily supplements only while pregnant, and the last given daily supplements only after delivery.
Tielsch said, "We'll be looking to see if there is increased growth in the first six months of life. Is that increased growth maintained, is it accelerated, is this a situation where we've changed the metabolic in utero programming such that those kids can take more advantage of the food that's available to them?
"We have to wait and see what’s going to happen."