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OTTAWA, ON – Nutrition International has been awarded a USD $734,437 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to lay the groundwork for implementing a global strategy for the control of folate deficiency and related neural tube defects. Through its Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM) Nutrition International will lead a folate task team, with inputs from global experts.

The task force will bring together key stakeholders, and will provide support to the development and dissemination of knowledge, as well as capacity building for laboratory folate testing.

Maternal folate deficiency in the first 28 days of pregnancy is a major cause of neural tube defects, which affected an estimated 260,100 pregnancies in 2015. These defects result in elective pregnancy terminations, stillbirths, and live births with spina bifida. Folic acid fortification and supplementation can dramatically reduce the number of affected births to less than one per 1000.

“This is an important step towards a safer, healthier world for mothers and their children,” said Joel Spicer, President and CEO of Nutrition International. ”We are excited to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and our partners to deliver the very first global folate strategy, a project that promises real progress in efforts to eliminate neural tube defects worldwide.”

A recent technical consultation convened by the Micronutrient Forum – whose Secretariat was hosted by Nutrition International between 2011-2017 – led to the development of a Roadmap for Action to advance and accelerate neural tube defects prevention globally. This grant will build on the work of that consultation.

Dr. Homero Martinez, Senior Technical Advisor, NTEAM, will be the project lead for Nutrition International’s folate task team and responsible for coordinating all efforts and convening this task force, launched in February 2018.

Through Dr. Martinez’s leadership, the folate task team will:

  • Establish the task force
  • Establish the core working group, an expert advisory group, and a group of selected external partners to advance the work towards a global action plan for neural tube defects prevention.

More specifically, the folate task team will:

  • Facilitate access to the scientific and technical conclusions of the Roadmap for Action and folate-related knowledge products;
  • Conduct a landscape analysis to prioritize countries where actions to reduce folate-sensitive neural tube defects are more needed and more likely to show impact;
  • Build laboratory capacity in selected number of low and middle income countries to assess folate status, and;
  • Support research to further inform the activities towards the global action plan.


About Nutrition International

Founded in 1992, Nutrition International is a global organization dedicated to delivering proven nutrition interventions to those who need them most. Working in partnership with countries, donors and implementers, our experts conduct cutting-edge nutrition research, support critical policy formulation, and integrate nutrition into broader development programs. In more than 60 countries, primarily in Asia and Africa, Nutrition International nourishes people to nourish life.   Our Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM) provides innovative services and technical assistance for capacity building and scaling up of nutrition globally.

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