Malnutrition is biggest global health problem, Gates Foundation exec tells CU students
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Malnutrition plays a major role in the deaths each year of 6.6 million children under 5 years of age, a global health expert told Creighton University premed students Tuesday.
Inadequate nourishment renders the children unable to fight off pneumonia, diarrhea, infections and malaria, said Dr. Christopher Elias, a Creighton alum who now is president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global development program. Elias cited nutrition as the biggest challenge facing global health initiatives.
Elias, who earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees at Creighton, said one reason nutrition is so challenging is that leafy vegetables aren’t available in the dry, hot conditions of Mali, Chad and some other countries of Africa.
Another reason is that in some cultures, men eat first, children second and mothers last, which means pregnant women are poorly nourished, hindering fetal development. He said a person is stunted for life after enduring malnutrition from conception to 2 years of age.
Elias, 56, told his Creighton audience of 150 that he was a medical student at Creighton when an opportunity came along that carried him to his career in global health.