Why it matters
It is well known that what we eat and drink as children sets the foundation for our adult lives. However, as we get older, our nutritional needs change. At Nestlé, we carefully study the links between health and nutrition throughout all the stages of life – from babies and children to expectant mothers, to healthy aging.
What we are doing
In 2019, we continued to work with the EpiGen Global Research Consortium to better understand how we can support the health of mothers and babies. We also developed our websites and participated in conferences to share knowledge with healthcare professionals and scientists. Read more about it in our 2019 progress report.
Demonstrating our commitment
Contributing to the knowledge of healthcare professionals
As part of our sharing of expertise with health professionals, we hosted two global Nestlé Nutrition Institute (NNI) workshops in 2019: one in India, on the global landscape of nutritional deficiencies in children, and one in Switzerland, on human milk and mucosal immunity, which reached 17 391 views via a webcast. We also published and shared 63 articles and 55 presentations by experts at international congresses and workshops. In collaboration with Salzburg University, we ran a pediatric nutrition online training course relevant for practical pediatricians and nutritional experts and accredited as the continuing medical education (CME) in 2019 for two years. Twelve online modules in five languages are available to health providers on the NNI website.
The NNI has supported fellowships for doctors from developing countries so they can be trained in pediatric gastroenterology and take the learning back to their countries. With continuous support from the NNI over several years, we have tripled the number of fully certified pediatric gastroenterologists in African countries, from 9 in 2011 to 27 in 2019. A total of 122 doctors have been trained on a Diploma course to further help them support children’s health in Africa.
Supporting education for medical professionals
In collaboration with three international universities in Australia, Germany and the US, Nestlé supports online university programs in pediatric nutrition, aimed at professionals working in the field:
- The Post Graduate Program in Pediatric Nutrition (PGPN) with Boston University, School of Medicine.
- The International Program for Preterm Nutrition (IPPN) with the University of Western Australia.
- The Early Nutrition Specialist Program (ENS) with Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich.
In 2019, more than 5800 healthcare professionals in 75 countries benefited from these programs, learning from leading experts in the field through a series of online modules, delivered through text, videos and audio. More than 90% of participants completed the courses, with 98% rating the programs as excellent and relevant to clinical practice.
Researching children’s nutrition
For 15 years, our Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) in the US has explored the eating patterns and nutritional intake of children in the first four years of their life. This initiative was expanded in 2014 to include older children (the Kids Nutrition and Health Study, KNHS) and additional countries, and it now includes China, Mexico, Russia, Australia, the US and the Philippines. The studies provide a comprehensive view of children’s dietary intakes, including food and nutrient intakes, timing and types of foods consumed at each meal, and feeding practices. We also assess breastfeeding behaviors, how long babies are breastfed and how closely mothers follow recommendations about what they are feeding their young children.
This information informs our product portfolio and the types of nutrition, reformulation or innovation we need to consider. In 2019, we began collecting data in Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria. Since 2014, FITS and KNHS have published more than 60 papers, in collaboration with research partners around the world, and results have been shared with health professionals through NNI workshops and scientific congresses. Key findings from the newest countries will be shared when they become available in 2020.
Launching the LIFE initiative
LIFE – Lactation or Infant Feeding Expertise – is a new initiative launched in 2019 to consolidate Nestlé’s research efforts on human milk composition, involving 16 different studies across 20 countries. The studies look into the composition of human milk and how the maternal diet affects babies’ growth and health while breastfeeding. Using the information gained, we can develop new nutritional strategies to better support lactating mothers and their infants.
A new digital portal created for LIFE through the NNI contains summarized LIFE-related publications and videos to help understanding of human milk biology and its functional properties. This makes it easier for healthcare professionals to find information about human milk composition and its association with maternal parameters, nutritional status and infant growth.
Developing affordable maternal nutrition through accelerated innovation
With 10% of the world’s population – 736 million people – living on less than USD 1.90 a day (World Bank), improving access to nutrition remains vital. In 2019, we launched a new R&D accelerator in Lausanne. The accelerator brings together scientists, students and start-ups to develop and test-launch innovative products in under six months. One of the R&D accelerator teams was tasked to help identify key nutritional gaps in pregnant and lactating women in Central and West Africa and to prototype ultra-affordable products. One of the first of these products is a ready-to consume protein and micronutrient powder. Solutions like these help us contribute toward affordable nutrition, a key priority for Nestlé.