When should infants receive fortified nutrition and micronutrient supplements?
There are three major areas that need to be taken into consideration when looking at whether infants should receive fortified complementary nutrition or micronutrient supplements. These approaches would only be necessary if the infant was deemed to be undernourished.
Firstly, medical practitioners need to establish what nutritional gaps might exist in the diets of small children. There are some contexts where macronutrients (energy and proteins) are being consumed appropriately, but what they might need are additional micronutrients. In these cases, it would be a much more cost efficient approach to use micronutrient powders as opposed to fortified complimentary foods. In other contexts, we know that children do not receive even the most basic energy and nutrients required for growth, so a fortified complementary food in addition to the micronutrients would provide a full dietary approach.
Secondly, medical practitioners need to be aware of the resources available in any given context. For a programme of nutritional intervention to be impactful, there needs to be enough of the chosen product to reach the families and for them to consume it over a period of time.
Finally, for a nutritional programme to be successful, there needs to be acceptance: it is important to understand the context in which the intervention is taking place to ensure that families will be happy to follow the advice and use the recommended products on a regular basis.
To understand if a programme is effective, evaluation needs to happen. It is necessary to look at whether the families are receiving the nutritional products and whether they are using them. Then for more detailed analysis of the impact of the intervention, medical indicators of malnutrition should be studied, such as anemia and micronutrient status. But in the first instance, it is vital to establish whether the products are actually being received and used before looking at biological outcomes.