“When women become pregnant…their nutrient needs shoot through the roof,” said Amy Webb Girard of Emory University’s School of Public Health in this interview with ECSP and the Global Health Initiative. Girard explains that under-nutrition is a major problem
for women – especially pregnant women – in resource-poor settings.
“For example, iron requirements almost double during the course of pregnancy, but iron is one of those nutrients that are really difficult to get,” Girard explained. Meat is not readily available in many developing countries and the iron in non-meat foods is not absorbed as completely. As a result, “women by and large are unable to meet those nutrient needs,” she said.
Fortunately, there is “an arsenal of nutritional interventions available,” noted Girard, including micro-nutrient supplements, behavior change strategies, and integrated facility- and community-based delivery methods.
“Additionally I think it’s very important that we also look at food production. This is a key, key thing,” said Girard. “Women who are able to produce their own foods [and] households that can produce their own foods have greater food security.”
“A lot of these agricultural strategies serve double purposes,” Girard said. “They not only increase the available food and the quality of that food, they improve women’s livelihoods, they give them a source of income, they give them – as some studies have shown – greater ability to negotiate within their own households for how money should be spent [and] whether they should access care or not. So they actually empower women in ways beyond nutrition.”