A day-long symposium on human nutrition will take place tomorrow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, US, entitled Food and Famine: Nutritional Conundrums.
The symposium, which is sponsored by Mead Johnson Nutritionals, will explore the complex roles nutrition and micronutrients play in global public health and the health of children worldwide.
The day will also see Alfred Sommer, Dean of the Johns Hopkins, receive the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutrition Research for his contributions to the understanding of the origin, magnitude, and control of vitamin A deficiency, which is associated with blindness and child mortality.
During the 1970s Dr Sommer discovered that mild vitamin A deficiency, which causes the progressive eye disorders xerophthalmia and keratomalacia, also dramatically increased childhood morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases, particularly measles and diarrhoea. He also discovered that vitamin A supplementation in children reduced measles fatalities by 50 per cent and overall childhood mortality by one-third.
He later found that a large oral dose of vitamin A, costing a few pennies, was a more effective and affordable means of treating vitamin A deficiency than injections, which were the recommended prevention method at the time. The oral dose is now the recommended standard of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the control of vitamin A deficiency is included in Declaration of the Rights of Children and the Plan of Action of the World Food Congress.
Two previous recipients of the award will also be present at the symposium.
Nevin S. Scrimshaw, senior advisor at the United Nations Food and Nutrition Programme, received the award in 1988 for his pioneering work in linking malnutrition to infection, and for developing the first successful vegetable weaning food for infants.
Vernon R. Young, Professor of Nutrition Biochemistry at the School of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, received the award in 1995 for his pioneering studies of amino acid metabolism.
The symposium takes place tomorrow, 15 February 2002, from 12:00 - 18:00 in the Becton Dickinson Lecture Hall, Johns Hopkins University.