This research summary first appeared on the Limestone Analytics Impact Blog. Photo of Gonoshasthaya Community Health Center outside of Dhaka by Rama George-Alleyne/World Bank Photo Collection
By Christopher Cotton, Queen’s Economics Department,
and Zuzanna Kurzawa, Limestone Analytics
Despite significant investments in micronutrient programs targeting pregnant women, the nutrition of pregnant women and their children continues to be a substantial concern in many developing countries. In Bangladesh, for example, there has been significant health infrastructure investment and a widespread iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation program in place since 1988. Yet, the rate of anemia among pregnant women remains at nearly fifty percent, contributing to the relatively high prevalence of poor nutrition and health among mothers and children (DFID 2018; WHO 2017).
The science clearly suggests that the IFA supplements can work: if consumed regularly during pregnancy, the supplements can reduce anemia and improve the nutrition of mother and newborn child, reducing the risks of stunting and other indicators of poor nutrition among children (Peña-Rosas, De-Regil, Garcia-Casal & Dowswell, 2015; Rasmussen & Stoltzfus, 2003).
If the science is sound, then why are these programs not more effective? Why does the rate of anemia, stunting, and other indicators of poor nutrition among women and children remain so high despite the widespread distribution of IFA supplements?
Using data collected by Nutrition International in Bangladesh, a recent academic study (Kurzawa et al., 2020) based on Limestone Analytics’ evaluation provides insight into these questions.
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