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  Partners in preventing micronutrient deficiencies: Sight and Life, DSM and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


Executive Summary

Partnership, driven by common goals and shared values, built on trust and complementarity, and sustained by short-term successes and long-term vision, can achieve success, and impact. This case study documents the three-way partnership that has existed for the past four decades between Sight and Life, Royal DSM N.V. (and, prior to 2003, Hoffmann-La Roche) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – a partnership driven by the common objective of preventing vitamin A and other micronutrient deficiencies in impoverished and undernourished regions of the world. Its aim is to outline how this unique public-private partnership came into being, how it has evolved in response to new scientific insights and changing population needs, and what it is given to the world in the years since it was first established.

The narrative focuses on the main drivers and principal achievements of the partnership. For reasons of space, it is selective rather than a comprehensive account of a complex and multi-faceted range of initiatives and activities developed and delivered by many individuals in many parts of the world during the period under review. More detailed accounts of the material presented here are available in back issues of Sight and Life Magazine, in the history of the first 25 years of Sight and Life (Micro Nutrients, Macro Impact: The story of vitamins and a hungry World, Sight and Life, Basel, 2011), and in the volumes listed in the select bibliography on page 29. The websites of DSM and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health also contain much relevant information, as do the websites of the United Nations World Health Organization and the World Food Programme.

This analysis is divided into four main sections, preceded by a timeline. The first of these – Section 4 of this document, starting on page 8 – describes how the relationship between Hoffmann-La Roche and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health gave birth to the ‘Task Force SIGHT AND LIFE’, as it was initially known, in response to the humanitarian crisis triggered by the Ethiopian Civil War of the mid-1980s. It explains how recent research into the relationship between vitamin A and eye health, in combination with Roche’s technical expertise in the industrial production, formulation and distribution of vitamin A, made possible a humanitarian initiative that was to save both the sight and the lives of many displaced and highly vulnerable people.

Section 5 covers the period during which the focus of Sight and Life expanded to embrace the entire range of micronutrients – all 13 recognized vitamins plus the full spectrum of dietary minerals essential to health. Important developments in nutrition science and public health programming took part during these years, as the world became increasingly aware of the global scourge of stunting and of the growing problem of hidden hunger – a deficiency of micronutrient intake in combination with adequate caloric intake.

Section 6 continues this story, chronicling evolutions in formulation, programming and policy against the background of the creation of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement and the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals. As new needs unfold in diverse ways, the partnership grows and adapts, fueled by discovery, commitment, and successful steps forward.

Finally, Section 7 canvasses the views of key actors in the partnership over the years and explores the relevance of this partnership to the wider world of nutrition science and public health policymaking and programming. The case study concludes with an infographic describing Sight and Life’s objectives and modus operandi today.

The full case study is available for download HERE