By Madeline Dickson, Partnerships & Campaigns Officer, Eleanor Crook Foundation
The Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF) is a U.S.-based private philanthropy exclusively focused on the fight against global malnutrition. The Foundation works to scale improved solutions to child malnutrition, with the ultimate goal of saving children’s lives and enabling them to excel in school, work, and beyond. ECF invests in three core areas: on-the-ground research to identify solutions to scale, to ensure every dollar invested goes further; policy analysis to drive smart reforms and efficiencies; and advocacy to make the case for policymakers and funders to join the fight to end malnutrition.
Malnutrition takes a child’s life every 11 seconds. It is a leading cause of child deaths, claiming more than 3 million children’s lives each year. Malnutrition deprives bodies of essential resources and weakens immune systems, leaving children up to 15 times more likely to die from common infectious diseases. In the midst of the pandemic, it has been difficult to get good data about the impact on malnutrition rates, but models have projected up to 50% increases in severe malnutrition. Not only does a rise jeopardize decades of progress in the fight against malnutrition and preventable child deaths; it also undermines global health security.
Often when people hear malnutrition, they think of food; but malnutrition is truly a global health problem. As the number one contributing factor to the global burden of disease, improving nutritional status reduces mortality and morbidity from major killers we’re already focused on in global health. It is also a key way to build resilience to future pandemics, as good nutrition is the bedrock of a functioning immune system.
The best and immediate solutions we have to fight malnutrition are health system solutions. Identified by Johns Hopkins University, and recognized by The Lancet and the World Bank, the “Power 4” interventions are among the most cost-effective and lifesaving nutrition interventions ready to be scaled today. These include prenatal vitamins for mothers; support with breastfeeding – a child’s “first vaccine,” since it passes immunologic factors from moms to kids in the first hours and days of life; vitamin A supplementation for kids; and ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat severe malnutrition. These can be integrated into national primary health systems and delivered by community health workers. Scaling up the Power 4 package can reduce child mortality rates, and strengthen a child’s immune system, cognitive development, school performance, and overall ability to thrive throughout life.
Unfortunately, across most low-income contexts, coverage of these interventions is critically low, and that’s something that ECF is working to change. In 2021, alongside key nutrition NGOs and experts in the sector, ECF launched Nourish the Future, a detailed, costed, 5-year plan for the U.S. Government to scale up the highest impact malnutrition interventions – particularly the Power 4 – nine focus countries. If implemented, Nourish the Future could save at least 2 million lives, while markedly improving life for at least 500 million women and children.
By investing in and advocating for these health system interventions, governments, donors, implementing partners, and civil society can maximize the impact of health programs, create a better return on investment on nutrition spending, and save millions of lives. Now is the time to finally bring the most powerful nutrition interventions to scale in the countries that need them most.
To learn more about The Eleanor Crook Foundation, visit https://eleanorcrookfoundation.org/.