Saving Brains: Maternal micronutrient supplements during pregnancy can feed babies’ brains


My name is Anuraj Shankar from the
Harvard School of Public Health and from the Summit Institute of Development in
Indonesia. Our project was a re-enrollment project supported by Grand
Challenges Canada from the Government of Canada, and the goal of the project
was to look at the long-term effects of a complete nutritional supplement during
pregnancy on the cognitive development of the children nine to 12 years of age. What we observed that was that certainly this complete nutritional
supplement during pregnancy resulted in improved cognition in children nine to
12 years of age, but we observed something actually that was much more
interesting than that and that was that because we had looked at and tested a
large number of children — around 3,000 children — we were able to look very
carefully at the relative contribution to cognitive development of biomedical
determinants versus the socio-environmental determinants. Most of
the public health interventions are what we call biomedical interventions so
there are things that are dealing with for instance immunization, nutritional
supplementation, those sorts of things are that are really focused on just the
the physical health of an individual. Things that are focused on the
psychological health or the psycho-social health of individuals — we have
very few interventions for those, and what we’re finding is that in fact it’s
those aspects of help that are most closely linked with
cognitive development in children and so our work was able to show that the long-term
effects of these psychosocial or social environmental determinants are in fact
much more important for cognitive development of children than any of the
biomedical determinants. We are so thankful to Grand Challenges Canada who
is funded by the government of Canada: without their support it would have been
impossible.

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