In the world of corporate philanthropy, it's bold to invest in programs developed and managed entirely at the grass-roots level. Yet that is the model Mondelez International Foundation has implemented. Our approach was recognized as a leading practice by the 2018 Access to Nutrition Index, but we wanted to better understand if our approach leads to lasting impact.
Dr. Rafael Pérez-Escamilla from the Yale School of Public Health conducted an analysis examining how our Foundation's efforts to tackle childhood obesity through nutrition education, active play, and community gardens are making a lasting, measurable impact across seven countries. Public -- private partnerships (PPPs) have been recognized as central for addressing childhood obesity; yet very few real-world examples have been published thus far.
Featured in the June Food and Nutrition Bulletin, Dr. Pérez-Escamilla noted that the strong PPPs MIF has in place are key to program success. In each community, MIF partners with local nonprofits familiar with children and their family needs, as well as the local conditions that influence program delivery. Partners in countries like Brazil, South Africa, Australia, India Mexico and more; work with government and community leaders to customize programs for maximum impact. For example, in South Africa, INMED Partnerships for Children implemented aquaponics and cultivation of sweet potatoes that require little water in drought-affected areas. In Mexico, program leaders engaged parents with healthy lifestyles activities to reach the people making choices about what is brought into households.
Successful programs rely on monitoring and evaluation to ensure the program connects meaningfully with families and communities. Our role is to connect our nonprofit partners with ideas and resources to make an impact. We build their capacity and help them measure change through customized, local metrics that gauge how these programs influence behavior. Working with Dr. Pérez-Escamilla, we brought together our nongovernmental organization partners from each of the countries we serve to share best practices and developed measurements that reflect local program goals and fit local needs.
"The Foundation and its partners around the world have created an effective framework for healthy lifestyle school-based public-private partnerships," Pérez-Escamilla said. "There is strong evidence that shows programs across all five continents are having a positive impact on nutrition and physical activity knowledge and practices."
Others also see the benefit of our approach. Regarding our program In India, Shiv Kumar Sharma with Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, underscored the significance of the process: "This is the first time in my life I have observed corporations, civil societies, public representatives and government officials join together on a single platform to ensure the health and development of children in the villages."
At the end of the day, it's more than the numbers of children we've reached that matters, but the documented lifestyle changes across programs; not just changes in the children, but all community members. From 2016 through 2017, we saw health improvements, including: 8 percent and 3 percent decrease respectively in South Africa children and their teachers who are obese; 10 percent decrease in China students suffering from malnutrition; children in Mexico program eating 3 or more servings of fruits and vegetables; and in Brazil a 13 percent decrease in anemia rates, 85 percent reduction in intestinal parasitic infection.
The foundation's initiatives are a key contributor to our company's Impact For Growth strategy -- our commitment to growing our business with positive change. By focusing our efforts where we can make the biggest difference, we are able to enhance the well-being of the people who make and enjoy our products, the communities we serve and the planet as a whole.
• Sarah Delea is president of the Mondelez International Foundation and senior director of global well-being and community involvement for Mondelez International, based in Deerfield.