“Saving Brains” of Kids: Grand Challenges Canada Funds Project in India and Worldwide

Nov 6, 2013 by

Source: Government of Canada | Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, today extended a total of CDN $10.1 million (INR 60 crore) to 14 bold, creative projects aimed at improving the early brain development of kids in low-resource countries.

Seed grants of CDN $270,000 (INR 1.6 crore) each are given to seven organizations overseas — in India, Vietnam (2 grants), Bangladesh, Kenya, Zambia and Peru.  And three seed grants are given to Canadian organizations: the Hospital for Sick Kids, Toronto (two grants), and the University Health Network, Toronto.

Projects in Jamaica, Colombia, Bangladesh and Indonesia are scale-up award nominees (board-approved grants up to CDN $2 million, pending successful contract negotiations).

All 14 projects will be implemented in developing countries: five in Africa, six in Asia and three in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Impoverished brains result in impoverished countries,” says Dr. Peter A. Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada.  “For a wide range of sad, all-too-familiar and preventable reasons, an estimated 200 million children under 5 years old in the world’s 112 low- and middle-income countries will fail to reach their brain’s full development potential.”

“These projects illustrate well the success of our search for ‘bold ideas with big impact, pioneering new approaches worldwide to maximize the number of kids in low-resource countries who achieve and contribute to their fullest capabilities,” Dr. Singer added.

The seed fund grant in India went to designing iron-fortified biscuits to reduce maternal and child anemia. After extensive consumer research, the nutrition team led by Dr A.V. Kurpad and the project collaborators, Violet Health Inc have developed several prototypes specifically designed with the tastes and preferences of pregnant women in India,” says project leader Dr. Pratibha Dwarkanath of St John’s Research Institute, unit of CBCI Society for Medical Education.

“We estimate our solution to be more cost-effective than the iron pill, while reaching more anemic women and their children”

“After proof of concept, we anticipate a scaled trial in Karnataka within three years and reducing anemia in women and infants.”

Says Mrs. Laureen Harper, honorary chairperson of the program: “The Grand Challenges Canada Saving Brains program is designed to help millions of children in developing countries who fail to reach their full development potential due to such factors as malnutrition, infection, birth complications, or a lack of nurturing and stimulation at an early age.”

Says the Honourable Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie: “Our Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper, is committed to advancing the health of the world’s most vulnerable mothers, newborns and children. We are proud to partner with Grand Challenges Canada to find innovative solutions to the most pressing global health challenges. The Saving Brains program is just one example of how innovation can help improve the lives of children in their earliest days. ”

Seed grant award to India

Iron-fortified biscuits to reduce maternal and child anemia

St John’s Research Institute, Unit of CBCI Society for Medical Education, Bangalore, (India)

Anemia — a low level of red blood cells causing a body’s reduced capacity to carry oxygen — results from micronutrient deficiencies, most often iron.

India has one of the highest rates of anemia globally: over 79% of children aged 6 to 8 months and 58% of the 26 million pregnant women each year.  Some 17 million of these women have access to iron pills yet 11 million do not take them for the recommended time (adherence rate: 35%).  Why?  The pill is big and tastes metallic.

Yet iron deficiency anemia dramatically affects the health of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby, increasing risks of death and sickness during childbirth, including haemorrhage and low-birth weight. Long-term, iron deficiency anemia delays psychomotor development and impairs cognitive development in infants, preschool and school-aged children around the world.

Moreover, researchers say, the effects of anemia are, “not likely to be corrected by subsequent iron therapy… anemic children will have impaired performance in tests of language skills, motor skills, and coordination, reportedly equivalent to a 5 to 10 point deficit in IQ.”

Part of the answer may be an iron-fortified biscuit for use by pregnant women, indistinguishable in taste from popular Indian biscuits.

Coupled with marketing, project leaders say their new biscuit is more likely to be used by previously non-adherent pregnant women, and increase iron stores in newborns, “which translates to more sustainable and protected early brain development.”

Project collaborators include Violet Health, Inc., NY, and the Indian Institute of Management, India Bangalore.

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Background

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Saving Brains

The Grand Challenges Canada Saving Brains Program promotes fulfillment of human capital potential by focusing on interventions that nurture brain development in the first 1,000 days of life. The goal of the Saving Brains program is to unlock the potential of children by developing and scaling up products, services and policies that protect and nurture early brain development in an equitable and sustainable manner. Almost CDN $30 million (180 crore INR) has been committed to date. In addition to projects, the Saving Brains program is investing in an authoritative quantification of the economic impact and true costs of poverty-related risk factors for cognitive and human capital development.

Grand Challenges Canada invites global, regional and corporate partners committed to enabling innovation for early brain development to join us in Saving Brains.

Please visit grandchallenges.ca and look for us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

About Grand Challenges Canada 

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health. We are funded by the Government of Canada through the Development Innovation Fund announced in the 2008 Federal Budget. We fund innovators in low and middle income countries and Canada. Grand Challenges Canada works with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and other global health foundations and organizations to find sustainable long-term solutions through integrated innovation – bold ideas which integrate science, technology, social and business innovation. Grand Challenges Canada is hosted at the Sandra Rotman Centre. 

www.grandchallenges.ca 

 

About Canada’s International Development Research Centre 

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development. IDRC also encourages sharing this knowledge with policymakers, other researchers and communities around the world. The result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most. 

As the Government of Canada’s lead on the Development Innovation Fund, IDRC draws on decades of experience managing publicly funded research projects to administer the Development Innovation Fund. IDRC also ensures that developing country researchers and concerns are front and centre in this exciting new initiative. 

www.idrc.ca

 

About Canadian Institutes of Health Research 

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada. 

CIHR will be responsible for the administration of international peer review, according to international standards of excellence. The results of CIHR-led peer reviews will guide the awarding of grants by Grand Challenges Canada from the Development Innovation Fund. 

www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca 

 

About the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The mandate of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada is to manage Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, to encourage the country’s international trade, and to lead Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance.

www.international.gc.ca

 

About Sandra Rotman Centre 

The Sandra Rotman Centre is based at University Health Network and University of Toronto. We develop innovative global health solutions and help bring them to scale where they are most urgently needed. The Sandra Rotman Centre hosts Grand Challenges Canada. 

www.srcglobal.org 

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