Vitamin Powder Promotes "Healthy Child, Happy Family"

This story was gathered from David Snyder's visit to Kenya. David reports on CDC programs in action for the CDC Foundation.

Evalyne Obang’o sits on a low wooden stool, her head wrapped neatly in a brilliant yellow cloth and her fingers working dexterously to prepare samples for an upcoming product giveaway. Joking with the women around her, she wears a red shirt that reads, simply, “Healthy Child, Happy Family.” Those words, as well as any, describe her experience with a product called Sprinkles.

A multi-vitamin and mineral powder that can be sprinkled onto foods, Sprinkles is preventing iron-deficiency and anemia among children and helping women like Obang’o earn an income.

“I’ve been selling Sprinkles since 2007,” Obang’o says. “I sell door-to-door in the community.”

Her community is the town of Awasi in Kenya’s Nyanza Province, where CDC partner agency SWAP – Safe Water and AIDS Project – is working with vendors like Obang’o to market the Sprinkles product. SWAP helps women sell Sprinkles and other health and hygiene products, while offering training about safe water practices and business skills to strengthen their small community groups.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was interested in evaluating the feasibility and effectiveness of distributing micronutrient sprinkles through community vendors, but it can be difficult for a U.S. government agency to contract with and transfer money to partner organizations for field work in developing countries. The CDC Foundation offered a smooth mechanism for CDC to partner with SWAP and others on the ground in Kenya to put CDC science into action.

“SWAP called our group together and taught us about the product,” says Obang’o. “They also taught us how to develop our businesses.”

Through SWAP, women like Obang’o, who belong to a local women’s group called Kochogo Kamunda, can purchase the sought-after vitamin powder at a wholesale price offered by SWAP. After marking the product up slightly so they can earn a small profit, Obang’o and the other members of her group sell door-to-door or from their homes or small market stands to dozens of communities in the Nyanza Province. Though she also sells a range of SWAP hygiene and sanitation products, Obang’o says the Sprinkles powder is among the most popular items she sells. A key symptom of anemia is a decreased appetite. The iron in Sprinkles improves children’s appetites and mothers see results quickly.

“I tell them that when children use Sprinkles, they will develop an appetite and get healthy,” Obang’o says. “After they used the Sprinkles, they came back and told us the children were now eating and were healthy.”

Among the communities where Sprinkles is now available, comments like these are common among mothers who have introduced the powder into their children’s daily diets. While some complain jokingly that the increased appetite caused by the powder creates a different kind of hardship, the product is popular here in Nyanza.

“There is nothing in the shops like this,” Obang’o says. “There are fruits with different nutrients but they are hard to get.”

While she is a vendor, Obang’o is also a mother. Having seen for herself the impact of the vitamins on local children, Obang’o says she was quick to offer the vitamin supplement to her own family once she gained access to Sprinkles through SWAP.

“I have three kids – 3, 4½ and 5 – and they all use the Sprinkles daily,” Obang’o says. “They are all healthy and energetic.”

CDC analyzed the results of the project and found a significant reduction in anemia among children who used Sprinkles and no adverse effects. The results are helping to pave the way for a national scale-up of Sprinkles distribution in Kenya, along with other iron-fortified foods.

by David Snyder


PROGRAM SNAPSHOT

Micronutrient Sprinkles Study - Kenya Purpose:

To evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of distributing micronutrient sprinkles through community vendors, to monitor sprinkles sales and coverage, and to measure the impact of sprinkles use on the incidence of iron deficiency and anemia.

Funding Partner:

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)

Program Partners:

CDC's National Center Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases

CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Kenya Medical Research Institute

Safe Water and AIDS Project (SWAP)

CDC Principal Investigators:

Parmi S. Suchdev, M.D., M.P.H. Rob Quick, M.D., M.P.H.

CDC Foundation's Role:

It can be difficult for CDC to contract with and transfer money to partner organizations to do field work in developing countries. The CDC Foundation provided a smooth mechanism for CDC to partner with SWAP and others on the ground in Kenya to put CDC science into action.


Lisa Splitlog is the director of CDC Value Communications for the CDC Foundation.