Abbott will invest US$45 million into the new Abbott Center for Malnutrition Solutions annually in a bid to reduce global malnutrition.
It will focus on the identification, treatment and prevention of malnutrition for the most vulnerable worldwide populations, including mothers, infants and young children; aging adults; and people lacking access to good nutrition.
“Through the creation of the Abbott Center for Malnutrition Solutions, we’ll apply our science and expertise, in partnership with others in both the public and private sectors, to reduce malnutrition around the world,” Daniel Salvadori, executive vice president of Abbott’s nutrition business, tells NutritionInsight.
The solutions could range from nutrition education or screening tools to policy or nutrition intervention.
Partnerships at the heart
Salvadori continues that Abbott is thinking “creatively” about who it works with to connect with partners who are closest to the problems in their communities.
“We plan to listen to and learn from those most qualified to identify critical nutrition issues and focus on making solutions accessible and sustainable.”
The center also contributes to Abbott’s 2030 Sustainability Plan ambition to transform care for malnutrition, chronic disease and infectious diseases, with a goal to improve the lives of more than 3 billion people.
A multi-pronged approach
The new innovation hub will follow four key principles in its efforts to reduce malnutrition.
The first is “convening with experts,” where the company examines malnutrition from different aspects. This principle also includes creating engaging discussions to understand the challenges, raise awareness of the problem and call on partners to work together to reduce malnutrition.
The next principle is “co-creating solutions.” Abbott notes that given the many forms of malnutrition that are contributing to the crisis, solutions cannot be one-size-fits-all.
Therefore, it is building an advisory board consisting of experts from each global region. It will also work with the private sector, governments, civil society organizations, multilaterals and entrepreneurs to co-design solutions.
Significantly, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — specifically No. 2: Zero Hunger, No. 3: Good Health and Wellbeing, and No. 17: Partnerships for the Goals — serve as a framework to provide goals and priorities for Abbott and its partners to reduce malnutrition and improve health.
Next is “leveraging science and innovation,” as these aspects are core to addressing malnutrition. The company will leverage its learnings from previous work such as Nourimanba in Haiti, Ultra Rice in India, the MUAC z-score tape, and the Malnutrition Quality Improvement Initiative (MQii) as examples to guide its ongoing work.
“Designing for sustainability” is also crucial as solutions must be accessible as well as sustainable. Therefore, the ability to reach the people who need it and scale and replicate beyond a single project or donation will be key considerations when designing solutions and choosing partners.
Beyond extreme poverty
With a third of people around the world being affected by malnutrition, the causes extend beyond extreme poverty.
“It affects people of all ages, all geographies and all socioeconomic classes. Progress to address malnutrition is slow and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Daniel Salvadori, executive vice president of Abbott’s nutrition business.
2020’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report revealed how COVID-19 had pushed the world “off track” to achieve the UN’s Zero Hunger goal by 2030. In January, a separate report from four specialized UN agencies also revealed that the Asia-Pacific region is also not on track to achieve Zero Hunger.
Taking a toll
The impacts of malnutrition can take many forms. For example, stunting is when children fall below a healthy height for their age, which is estimated to impact 149 million children under five. Additionally, 45 million children under five are below a healthy weight, which is known as wasting.
Being underweight also affects 462 million adults. On the other end of the spectrum, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, while 39 million children under five are overweight.
Abbott emphasizes that the problem is extremely complex, with countries simultaneously fighting the burdens of hunger, stunting, wasting and obesity.
Additionally, vulnerable groups continue to be disproportionately affected by these disruptions and lack of resources, impacting access to good nutrition and, ultimately, improved outcomes.
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