Welcome to OpeN-Global!
The OpeN-Global website is a freely available, open-access online resource aimed at supporting the objective, accurate and detailed assessment of nutritional biomarkers from populations globally. OpeN-Global is specifically designed to support and enable work on populations from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but all of the information and the analytical methods presented can be applied to samples from any population group.OpeN-Global additionally provides a network of experts to support the implementation of biomarker assays in laboratories globally, including in LMIC settings, and to help interpret the data obtained.
OpeN-Global is an open-access website format, that is free for all to use.
Malnutrition, from either under- or over-nutrition, affects one in three people globally. This makes malnutrition, together with diet, the biggest risk factors for the global burden of disease – by far.
Micronutrient deficiencies are estimated to impact a significant number of people around the world, but there remains far too little information on micronutrient status and deficiencies. More essential information and surveillance need to be gathered to make substantial progress on global targets.
2018 Global Nutrition Report
What’s basically needed, are more and better data.
One of the key barriers to the development of both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes and policies, particularly in LMICs, is the lack of robust evidence on nutritional status in the most vulnerable groups.
Though many health and nutrition related activities in LMICs are underpinned by well-designed national surveys (e.g. the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey), data from the most vulnerable population groups, i.e. infants, children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, are often limited to anthropometry and easy-to-assay parameters e.g. haemoglobin, or single micronutrients e.g. vitamin A or iodine.
Other available information may be based on prevalence data, e.g. stunting in under 5’s as a proxy to assess population risk of zinc deficiency, or household coverage of adequately iodised salt in salt fortification monitoring and a proxy for risk of iodine deficiency.
And whilst these aspects have confirmed success in public health monitoring and remain recommended strategies for population nutrition surveillance (for more information on this, see the references at the bottom), a more accurate picture of population nutrient status can be obtaine by biochemical data from human samples.
Laboratory assays on human samples such as urine and blood provide a real picture of nutrient status. Such assays could feature as routine, however are rarely included in demographic and health surveys in LMICs.
What are the barriers to biochemical assessment in population nutrition surveillance?
With the help of the OpeN-Global partner network including leading scientists based in LMICs, we uncovered some of the key barriers to assessment of biochemical samples in LMIC nutrition surveys. Surprisingly, it wasn’t only about funding and the challenge of collecting human samples. Our kick-off workshop highlighted several key themes, including:
- A clear need for guidance and technical support to facilitate the assessment of a wider panel of nutritional biomarkers than is currently available and routinely used;
- Excellent research infrastructure and laboratory platforms are in place in many LMIC settings, but several barriers, including staff training and technical know-how prevents full utilisation.
Together, we concluded that support in these key areas would start a positive cycle of quality control and assurance, technical accreditation, investment, and increased trust – leading to better outputs. Supporting the generation of quality data in-country in this way will support evidence-based policy, and help to transform nutritional outcomes in a positive way.
Freely-available technical support would enable a positive cycle of quality, trust and investment – that would lead to better outputs – and better health outcomes - basically, more and better data.
Our response to this need: OpeN-Global.
We have established a global network of expertise in nutritional research methodologies. Our (currently) 37-strong global partner network of committed academic, technology and industry experts spans 20 institutions across 10 countries on 5 continents. Read about our partners and where they come from.
Through this partnership, we have created the OpeN-Global website – a hub of resource tools for assessment of nutritional status in global health settings. OpeN-Global provides:
- an open-access format,
- laboratory SOPs to download or gives links to published nutritional biomarker assay methods,
- details on assay quality control and method or laboratory accreditation,
- contacts for technical support, and
- fully-referenced general information –
For over 20 nutritional biomarkers, from key nutrients such as zinc and iodine, to newer technologies and –omics approaches, and the list is growing.