Tiny amounts of micronutrients can set kids in poverty up for success.
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Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

You know what's highly underrated?

Micronutrients.

Small but mighty, micronutrients deserve a big round of applause for helping you become the person you are today.


Micronutrients — a range of vitamins and minerals like iron, vitamin A, and calcium — are crucial for growth and well-being, especially during pregnancy and the first few years of life. The best part about them is that micronutrients are effective in super small quantities. I suppose that explains the whole "micro" part of their name.  

For many of us, micronutrients like iron, iodine, and vitamin A, are part of everyday life. But that's not the case for everyone.

Micronutrients are everywhere in the Western world: in fruit juices, vegetables, fortified foods, and over the counter supplements. We have store aisles completely dedicated to vitamins and minerals. They are so prevalent in our culture, we often don't give them a second thought.

But that's not the reality for over 2 billion people in the world.  

At least half of children worldwide ages 6 months to 5 years aren't getting enough micronutrients — and it's wreaking havoc on global progress.

Image via hdptcar/Flickr.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 million babies are born mentally impaired because of maternal iodine deficiency. Iron deficiency during pregnancy is associated with 115,000 deaths each year. And the Micronutrient Initiative says that vitamin A deficiency claims the lives of almost 670,000 children under 5 and causes up to half a million children to become blind each year.

Those statistics are nothing but jarring, but they can easily be reduced. We know because we've already seen promising results.

Take iodized salt, for example. You may have some in your kitchen right now. The iodization of salt is considered to be one of the world's simplest and most cost-effective measures to prevent iodine deficiency. In 1990, only about 20% of the world’s households had access to it, according to the Salt Institute. Today that access is more than 70%.

IQ is shown to be on average 13 points higher in places with adequate iodine intake than in those that are iodine deficient.

By adding micronutrients like iodine, vitamin A, folic acid, and iron to staple crops, communities have a better shot at reducing anemia and birth defects in their newborns.

Supplements are another way. Providing young children with vitamin A supplementation every six months has the ability to reduce mortality by an average of 23%, says the Micronutrient Initiative.

A greater focus on micronutrients is a cost-effective way to keep kids healthy and break the cycle of poverty.

It's a win-win, and organizations, governments, and creative minds are catching on. Social enterprise groups are also taking on the challenge. Lucky Iron Fish, for example, has changed the way families around the world receive their daily iron requirements. By boiling a fish-looking tool made of iron next to other ingredients in a pot, dinner becomes healthier — and so do the people eating it.  

And, of course, education is key. The need to educate and change the type of food being consumed in order for it to make the biggest nutritional impact plays a vital role.

When people don't have access to the vitamins and minerals they need, they can't develop to their full potential. Giving newborns a better shot at life gives future generations a better one too. It's perhaps the best way to break the cycle of poverty — for good.

Do your part to help stop child malnutrition: Sign the petition to call on President-elect Trump to fully implement the Global Food Security Act.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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In 2015, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price had a life-changing epiphany.

Price, who founded Gravity with his brother in 2004, was out hiking in the Cascade Mountains with his friend, Valerie. She told him her landlord had raised her rent by $200 and she was struggling to get by on her $40,000 a year income. Price, who was making $1.1 million a year as CEO of Gravity, was struck by her story. Not only did he feel for Valerie—a military veteran working two jobs and barely making ends meet—realized that some of his own employees might be facing similar struggles.

And they were. One employee frankly told him his entry-level salary was a rip-off. Another employee had secretly been working at McDonald's outside of work hours to make ends meet. So Price decided to make a drastic change by investing in his employees.

He researched how much money the average person would need in order to live comfortably and settled on $70,000 a year. In one fell swoop, he dropped his own salary to that amount, while also making it the minimum salary for anyone who worked at Gravity.

The move drew media coverage—and dire predictions from pundits. On Fox News and other conservative outlets he was called "foolish," a "socialist" and a "lunatic of lunatics." Rush Limbaugh called the company policy "pure unadulterated socialism" that was "going to fail" and should be a case study in MBA programs on how socialism doesn't work. Talking heads predicted that his employees would end up in the welfare line.

Six years later, Price has proved the haters wrong—by a lot.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less