In places like Ithaca, if your doctor wants to test you for conditions like anemia, they draw a blood sample and send it to a lab. It typically takes an hour or two to complete the test, and a day or two to return the results to you via your doctor. But if you’re like most people in the world—you don’t have easy access to either the doctor or the lab.
For most of the world’s inhabitants, getting an accurate anemia diagnosis involves travel, expense, and delays—obstacles that often prove prohibitive to getting treatment. According to a recent Lancet Diagnostics Commission report, nearly half of the world’s population does not have access to diagnostics for primary care, and more than 80% of people in low-income and lower-middle-income countries lack access to simple diagnostic tests.
Solving thorny problems like these is the focus of Saurabh Mehta’s work. Mehta, the Janet and Gordon Lankton Professor, directs Cornell’s Program in International Nutrition, and he is founding co-director of the university’s new Center for Precision Nutrition and Health based in the College of Human Ecology.
“Malnutrition—both over- and under-nourishment—is the single largest risk factor for poor health globally,” Mehta explains. Suboptimal nutrition accounts for one-third of all premature deaths in the US, from diseases like diabetes and obesity. Through the center, Professor Mehta is working to understand how nutrition can be used to improve health outcomes and how best to personalize nutrition for optimal health.