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The Orphan Nutrition Project is SPOON Foundation’s pioneering effort to identify and prevent common nutritional deficiencies that impede the health and development of institutionalized children ages 0-3 in developing countries.
This project is SPOON Foundation’s primary focus for 2009/2010. The project is being piloted in the Republic of Kazakhstan and will serve as a model for advancement of orphan nutrition policy and procedures around the globe.
The project is being piloted in ten Baby Houses (orphanages for very young children) throughout the country of Kazakhstan, in a region that is underserved by the international aid community, despite the demonstrated nutritional risks. Collaborating partners include the state-run Kazakh Academy of Nutrition and a local NGO, the “Kazakh Children’s Nutrition Foundation.” The project has the full support of the National Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan at its highest level.
The Orphan Nutrition Project will be the first time ever – worldwide – that the nutrition of orphaned children will be closely examined to create a model for improving orphan health and development through nutrition. Results of the project will be widely shared through publications and conferences, in order to catalyze change in children’s nutrition policy throughout the region and beyond.
The project includes:
Conducting a comprehensive feeding, nutritional, and developmental assessment of approximately 250 young orphans.
Evaluating the impact of dietary changes and vitamin and mineral supplements on the health and well-being of young orphans.
Identifying results that will inform and improve nutrition policies and procedures throughout Kazakhstan, and eventually beyond.
Developing a model that can be effectively replicated in neighboring countries and beyond.
Gaining insight into the nutritional risks of institutionalized orphans that will inform nutrition guidelines for adopted children in the U.S.
The first phase of work consists of collecting and analyzing information on the nutritional and developmental status of all children ages 6-36 months living in the pilot baby houses. The assessment includes blood tests for various vitamins/mineral levels, head/weight/height measurements, a standardized assessment of motor and cognitive function, as well as detailed observation of baby house menus, food prep, and feeding processes. This phase has been completed.
During the second phase of the project, a customized nutrition intervention, consisting of fortified formulas and vitamin/mineral supplements, will be given to a randomly selected subset of children in the participating baby houses. This phase started in June 2010.
Using assessment data and outcomes from the intervention, SPOON Foundation and project partners will recommend policies and procedures to leverage systemic change. Ultimately, the impact of this project extends well beyond the hundreds of orphans helped in the pilot. In demonstrating the nutritional needs of orphans, as well as the effectiveness of nutritional supplementation on orphan health, the Orphan Vitamin Project has the potential to advance nutritional policies and procedures impacting Kazakhstan’s 48,000 institutionalized orphans. Moreover, by developing a solid protocol sfor researching and implementing vitamin therapy in orphanages, SPOON Foundation will establish a model that can be replicated in institutions housing vulnerable children worldwide.
Although many children are malnourished upon adoption, very few resources are available to parents that are specific to the nutrition of adopted children. In fact, the medical research into the area of adoption nutrition is almost nonexistent. The first comprehensive studies targeting adoption nutrition are currently being completed at the University of Minnesota. Information from these studies was used by SPOON Foundation to inform their work in the area of Adoption Nutrition.
As a part of its mission, SPOON Foundation seeks to improve the health of both orphans and adoptees. To address adoptee health and nutrition, SPOON Foundation developed this Adoption Nutrition website, sends out monthly online newsletters, and organizes monthly webinars on topics pertinent to adoptee nutrition.