#7D4H - Guest Blogger Katherine Williams #Nutrition

About the Guest Blogger: A member of the Global Health Corps community, Katherine Williams is passionate about systemic and multi-sector influences on global health and nutrition. Katherine works for Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative, which assists governments in Africa and Asia to build out strong, large-scale deworming programs through their school systems.  

Associate at Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative, Global Health Corps Fellow, Class of 2014, MSW/MPH, Class of 2013, Washington University in St. Louis

Blog Title: Nutrition, a coin toss, and worms

Child washing hands before taking deworming tablet in Kenya. Photo credit: Evidence Action / Stephanie Skinner

Do you ever wonder why you are who you are? I’m not trying to get into the nature vs. nurture argument or anything too deep - but sometimes I find myself marveling at the fact that I am me. I’m grateful for my stumbled-upon rights, and my opportunities for freedom and health. Why wasn’t I born into another country, family, or body? (If you want to humor me, go to 1:45 in this video of two random but cute little boys singing about this question in a school play). Sometimes, a lot of the defining variables that have had a major influence on my life seem to be nothing more than the result of a lucky coin toss. This realization can invoke a deep sense of reverent gratitude in me just as easily as it can stir up a fury that so many individuals sharing the same world, with the same hopes for success and fullness of life, didn’t land on the lucky side of the toss.

For instance, I’ve always had access to a range of nutritious foods, medical care, and sanitation systems that have helped to ensure that my body is fortified and equipped for the healthy lifestyle I’m privileged to enjoy. Meanwhile, one in three of my global brothers and sisters are living with micronutrient deficiencies, or “hidden hunger.” As the name suggests, you can’t tell from looking at someone whether they’re a victim of hidden hunger. While a lack of vital micronutrients (rather than macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, or fat) might not be visibly apparent, it can lead to permanent mental impairment, weakened immunity and increased health problems throughout life, decreased economic productivity, and even death.

This type of undernutrition disproportionately affects the very people and places that have the least amount of “cushion” to tolerate it, specifically women and children in developing countries. In less-developed, low-income countries, the root level promoters of undernutrition are often set up to thrive. Open defecation, unclean water, and a lack of sanitation systems allow bacteria and parasites to live it up in the natural environment as well as in human hosts, where they compete for control over precious nutrient resources. Intestinal worms are some of the worst offenders and siphon off nutrition and energy from more than 800 million children. Infected kids are subjected to fatigue, poor health, and a developmental ceiling-they’re often sick and absent from school, cognitively impaired, and their growth is often stunted.

Like every complex issue in global health, the problem of hidden hunger is multifaceted and tied to systems of politics, economics, and geography. There is no silver bullet solution. If the unfairness of this hidden hunger coin toss is getting you down, believe me, I’m with you. But let’s zoom in to the parasitic worm sub-section of the hidden hunger problem-- this creepy crawly contributor to the overall umbrella of undernutrition actually has a high-impact, cost-effective answer with a substantial body of rigorous evidence. Known as a “best buy for development,” school-based deworming programs are super-cheap and rid children of the parasitic worms that wreak havoc on their long-term health, nutrition, and productivity. Yes, hygiene, sanitation, and nutritional food are crucial to giving hidden hunger a proper send-off, but large-scale progress is being made and that’s something worth celebrating. It’s a step in the right direction toward improving the enabling environment for world-wide nutritional gains.

Call to action:

Do you have important information around nutrition that you want to share with a wider audience? Do you or a loved one currently live and/or struggle with nutrition related issues? Do you work in research, advocacy, prevention, treatment or care? We want to hear from YOU! Write to us today: 7dresses@artsconnectinternational.org to become a featured blog writer. Another way to get involved is to wear the color of the day in solidarity. Take a picture of yourself in the color of the day and Tweet it @ArtsConnectInt, tag us on Instagram @ArtsConnectInt, or send it to us on Facebook

About 7 Dresses 4 Health: 7D4H is a year-long arts and health education campaign lead by visual artist, Marian Brown, in conjunction with Arts Connect International. The objective of the campaign is to promote inclusive community practices through adDRESSing health artistically and collaboratively. To learn more about the genesis of the project, read Marian’s New Year Blog.

About today's look: Katherine Williams (Right) and Marian Brown (Left) wearing green in solidarity. All of the dresses for 7 Dresses 4 Health were designed and sown by Kim's Fashion Design. Love the look? Visit Kim at 100 Huntington Ave, Boston MA 02116, call her at (617) 267-9299 or email her: info@kimsfashion.com. Mention 7 Dresses 4 Health for a special discount! 

Campaign Update (2017): All 7 Dresses 4 Health blogs were migrated from a former site, so the sharing analytics are inconsistent from when they were first published. We apologize to our guest bloggers, and readers, for this inconvenience. That said, the campaign garnered an average of 5K hits per blog, over 500,000 readers throughout 2015! Additionally, the average number of shares per guest blog was over 150x on social media (through Facebook and Twitter). Thank you for making this incredible campaign possible - and for all that it was for so many. With gratitude, Marian & the ACI Team