The project will research the determinants and socio-economic consequences of early life nutrition and health. This is motivated by the recent shift to consider the 1000 days between pregnancy and age two as a critical period for nutrition and health that has long lasting consequences. There is also the “fetal origins hypothesis” famously promoted by Barker (1995). Barker (1995) postulated that deficiencies in utero nutrition could lead to future cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, and that the consequences of in utero conditions are persistent throughout life. Recently, several studies in economic literature have begun testing this hypothesis by examining the long run impact on human capital of in utero exposure to shocks and health/ nutritional interventions such as hookworm eradication, salt iodization, malaria, Ramadan fasting and the 1918 flu pandemic (Almond 2006).
The project will include three studies.
1. The Long Run Effects of Universal Salt Iodization in Cameroon: Testing the Fetal Origins Hypothesis.
In this study, iodine deficiency during pregnancy is perceived as a shock that has long run consequences on cognitive function, school performance and ultimately human capital accumulation. The central assumption is that iodine deficiency causes fetal brain damage mostly during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. The study will determine the long term educational effects of prenatal exposure to universal salt iodization among young adults in Cameroon. Since 1991, universal salt iodization has been widely adopted as a large scale nutrition enhancement policy in UN member countries.
2. Improved Sanitation and Maternal Nutritional Status in Ethiopia
There is substantial evidence that improved sanitation reduces the incidence of child diarrhea and mortality in resource poor settings. However, there is little evidence on whether improved sanitation has benefits beyond child health. Given the growing emphasis on improving nutrition in the preconception and the first 1000 days of life, this study will explore whether better sanitation can also improve the nutritional status of women at the preconception stage.
3. Local diets and child growth in Malawi
Little is known about why some children eating sub-optimal diets thrive and are not stunted. This study will investigate why some children in food insecure regions grow well while eating non-diverse diets.