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The launch of the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Consortium

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The Micronutrient Forum and its partners, supported by Kirk Humanitarian and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, launched the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Consortium (HMHB) https://hmhbconsortium.org/ at a global webinar on 10th March 2021. The consortium aims to generate momentum for coordinated action on maternal nutrition, initially focusing on scaling up access and use of affordable multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS). Through the combined effort of the consortium members, it is envisaged that more pregnant women will benefit from improved nutrition through MMS, have healthier pregnancies and thereby give their babies a better chance to survive and thrive.

HMHB members represent a diverse community, united in their vision to increase the global demand, supply and delivery of MMS through effective advocacy, networking and knowledge management. Dr Saskia Osendarp, Executive Director of the Micronutrient Forum, explains, “At the core of this initiative is the belief that women and babies deserve our best, and our best requires us to work together through an inclusive platform that brings advocates and experts across sectors and across the world together around one common agenda and a unified voice”.

MMS contain 15 micronutrients that are essential to the health of mothers and their babies. The consortium builds on the strong evidence base that MMS are safe, cost-effective and consistently associated with better birth outcomes compared to iron folic acid (IFA) supplementation alone. Recent systematic reviews have highlighted that, compared to IFA, using MMS can decrease the risk of low birthweight, 6-month mortality, preterm birth, small-for-gestational age and stillbirth. Despite this, many women in low- and middle-income countries do not have access to MMS, placing their own health and that of their babies at unacceptable risk.

One of the reasons there is limited access to MMS is because it is not yet on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List (EML) which includes the medications considered to be most effective and safe to meet the most important needs in a health system. The list is frequently used by countries to help to develop their own local lists of essential medicines. If MMS were on the EML, this would help open the door for countries to improve access. An application has been made to include MMS on the EML to this end. HMHB is asking its members and stakeholders to write letters of support for this application and has more information on its website on how to take action.

On 31st March 2021, HMHB facilitated an online workshop where participants helped to shape an advocacy agenda for MMS, outlining strategies to improve engagement with the maternal health sector and how the upcoming Nutrition For Growth (N4G) Summit (taking place in Tokyo in December 2021) could be leveraged for global policy and financial commitments to maternal nutrition. A living draft of the advocacy strategy for the N4G Summit (“Maternal Nutrition and Multiple Micronutrient Supplementation: A Commitment Guide for Tokyo’s 2021 Nutrition for Growth Summit”) can be found at https://hmhbconsortium.org/nn4g-commitment-guide

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The launch of the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Consortium. Field Exchange 65, May 2021. p8. www.ennonline.net/fex/65/healthymothersbabiesconsortium

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