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Targeting strategies for balanced energy and protein (BEP) supplementation in pregnancy: study protocol for the TARGET-BEP cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural Bangladesh

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends balanced energy and protein (BEP) supplementation be provided to all pregnant women living in undernourished populations, usually defined as having a prevalence > 20% of underweight women, to reduce the risk of stillbirths and small-for-gestational-age neonates. Few geographies meet this threshold, however, and a large proportion of undernourished women and those with inadequate gestational weight gain could miss benefiting from BEP. This study compares the effectiveness of individual targeting approaches for supplementation with micronutrient-fortified BEP vs. multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) alone as control in pregnancy in improving birth outcomes. The TARGET-BEP study is a four-arm, cluster-randomized controlled trial conducted in rural northwestern Bangladesh. Eligible participants are married women aged 15-35 years old identified early in pregnancy using a community-wide, monthly, urine-test-based pregnancy detection system. Beginning at 12-14 weeks of gestation, women in the study area comprising 240 predefined sectors are randomly assigned to one of four intervention arms, with sector serving as the unit of randomization. The interventions involving daily supplementation through end of pregnancy are as follows: (1) MMS (control); (2) BEP; (3) targeted BEP for those with pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) < 18.5 kg/m2 and MMS for others; (4) targeted BEP for those with pre-pregnancy BMI < 18.5 kg/m2, MMS for others, and women with inadequate gestational weight gain switched from MMS to BEP until the end of pregnancy. Primary outcomes include birth weight, low birth weight (< 2500 g), and small for gestational age, defined using the 10th percentile of the INTERGROWTH-21st reference, for live-born infants measured within 72 h of birth. Project-hired local female staff visit pregnant women monthly to deliver the assigned supplements, monitor adherence biweekly, and assess weight regularly during pregnancy. Trained data collectors conduct pregnancy outcome assessment and measure newborn anthropometry in the facility or home depending on the place of birth. This study will assess the effectiveness of targeted balanced energy and protein supplementation to improve birth outcomes among pregnant women in rural Bangladesh and similar settings.

Clinical Trial Zavala et al. May 2024
  • South Asia
  • Research
  • Scientific publication