Our randomised crossover trial of biofortified zinc flour (details in an earlier blog) was successfully completed in February. The field team achieved an impressive 90% retention rate (45/50 households) in the brick kiln communities across Peshawar.
Some of the families ran out of flour during the last week of the trial. As a result of this, the final sampling had to be done a few days ahead of schedule. The families reported feeling healthier during the trial (which they attributed to the new flour) and because of this, they had consumed more flour than expected!
Research Assistant, Babar Shahzad explained some of the some of the challenges of conducting research in this poor and marginalised population.
“In the beginning we had some difficulties with recruitment and we had to develop trust in the community. When the people consumed the flour and they felt good (although they did not know which flour they were consuming) they began to trust our project. During the whole trial, the families were very satisfied from the flour quality. During the last sampling they requested more flour but we had reached the end of the trial.”
The next steps are laboratory analysis, data entry and statistical analysis. We are very excited about seeing the results and we hope they will show improved zinc status associated with consuming bio-fortified zinc flour.
We are also planning the next phase of our study to assess stakeholder awareness and acceptance of bio-fortified zinc wheat and flour. This will be important in terms of long-term sustainability and scaling up across Pakistan. We will continue to work closely with our partners at Abaseen Foundation and Fauji Fertilizer Company to engage with relevant stakeholders including farmers and community members.
In March, we will travel to Pakistan for our mid-project meeting. We will spend three days together in Murree and, for some of us, this will be the first face-to-face meeting after months of working together. Skype, WhatsApp and good old email made this possible!
Then we will travel to Islamabad for a research symposium with invited delegates from the Department for International Development (DFID), the British Council, HarvestPlus, Nutrition International, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), the National Agriculture Research Centre and Khyber Medical University. This will be an opportunity to share preliminary findings from our study and develop relationships with potential collaborators.