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Dollars and Sense: The Economic Cost of Malnutrition


The content of this blog post relies exclusively on the excellent reporting of the 2014 Global Hunger Index.

"Vitamin and mineral deficiencies impose a significant burden on the affected persons and societies, both in terms of health costs and negative impacts in lost human capital and reduced economic productivity."

In general, we think of malnutrition as a health issue with negative implications for childhood education. But according to the 2014 Global Health Index (GHI), malnutrition is a serious economic issue, causing the world to lose an estimated $1.4 to $2.1 trillion USD per year. 

Hidden hunger impairs physical growth and learning. If a person develops physical problems as a child - for example, child blindness due to a lack of vitamin A - those problems will limit their productivity as an adult. Reduced productivity translates into a lower salary and fewer options for economic development. This perpetuates poverty in a continuous cycle. 


PHOTO COURTESY FREDDY MURPHY
When this happens to an individual it is painful, but when it happens to an entire nation the results are crippling. Poor people disproportionately suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies which prevents them from reaching their economic potential and forces their countries to rely on foreign aid and loans for economic stimulus. 

According to the 2014 GHI, micronutrient deficiency can actually reduce the gross domestic product of a nation.

On the other hand, the return on investment in nutrition can be quite high, and nutritional interventions are consistently proven to be cost-effective. 

In 2008, the Copenhagen Consensus Expert Panel ranked supplements for children (vitamin A and zinc), fortification (iron and iodine), and biofortification among the top five best investments for economic development. 

For example, estimates for salt iodization suggest that every dollar invested generates up to $81 USD in benefits. At that rate of return, who wouldn't invest in nutrition?!

Help children grow into economically productive and self-sufficient adults.



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Food for the Hungry: Dollars and Sense: The Economic Cost of Malnutrition
Dollars and Sense: The Economic Cost of Malnutrition
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Food for the Hungry
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