Mark Manary, MD ‘82, the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics, has been waging a war against childhood malnutrition in Africa since 1994. His pioneering clinical studies have helped reshape the way severely malnourished children are treated.
When Manary arrived in Africa as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine in 1995, the pediatrics chief at the medical school warned him about the pitfalls of treating malnutrition. Manary, who always likes a challenge and the chance to make the world better, ignored the advice and began treating children for malnutrition by using standard milk-based foods with additional potassium. This simple move vastly improved their rate of survival, though not yet optimal.
In 2001, he field-tested a peanut-butter based food in Malawi that mothers took home and fed their children. The nutrient-rich mixture, called Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), restores malnourished children to health and has been endorsed as the best way to treat severe malnutrition by the World Health Organization. After just six weeks, an amazing 95 percent of children treated fully recovered from malnutrition.
“I said, ‘Wow, this is really working!’” Manary recalls.
Manary, who co-founded Project Peanut Butter with his wife, now oversees RUTF production at a Malawian factory. Each year, with the help of medical students, Manary enrolls thousands in Project Peanut Butter, which also operates in Sierra Leone.
“We’ve reached a point where local Malawian institutions are managing the project and taking care of the kids,” Manary says.
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