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June 9, 2021

Ending Infant Mortality Worldwide with Howard Schiffer, Founder of Vitamin Angels

Ending Infant Mortality Worldwide with Howard Schiffer, Founder of Vitamin Angels

In underserved populations, the majority of governments provide health and nutrition services to their citizens. Despite their best efforts, however, limited resources hinder their ability to do so. Unfortunately, those who are most in need of...


In underserved populations, the majority of governments provide health and nutrition services to their citizens. Despite their best efforts, however, limited resources hinder their ability to do so. Unfortunately, those who are most in need of assistance are always overlooked. Vitamin Angels collaborate with local nonprofit agencies that offer health and nutrition services to women and children who are underserved. Only programs that are complementary to and integrated with established national health systems are supported.

Vitamin Angels have developed a global network of over 2,000 program partners with a deep understanding of the populations they represent and the ability to recognise and fill health-care gaps.

About Our Guest: Howard Schiffer is the President & Founder / CEO of Vitamin Angels. Following a successful 14-year career in the natural foods industry developing quality products and turning them into best sellers through innovative marketing and promotions, Howard founded Vitamin Angels in 1994. From its inception, Vitamin Angels has worked to stop malnutrition from the start for mothers and children in need worldwide. Last year, Vitamin Angels reached more than 70 million at-risk pregnant women and children in 74 countries, including the U.S. Under Howard’s leadership, Vitamin Angels has become the largest distributor of vitamin A to the non-profit and faith-based community globally.

In 2018, Howard announced a new goal for Vitamin Angels: to eliminate infant mortality surrounding childbirth due to vitamin deficiency diseases by the year 2030. To improve birth outcomes and save lives on a global scale, the organization is aiming to reach 50 million women annually with prenatal multivitamins by 2030. Howard and Vitamin Angels’ work have been featured in a number of major news and media outlets including TODAY, CNN Money, Reader’s Digest, KTLA, Medium, Forbes, NY Post, Money Magazine, and Good Day LA as well as numerous industry specific publications. Under Howard’s leadership, Vitamin Angels has twice been named a Top 10 “Highly Rated Charity Relying Solely on Private Contributions” by Charity Navigator in addition to earning nine consecutive 4-star ratings. Vitamin Angels has a Platinum rating from GuideStar.

 

Website: https://www.vitaminangels.org

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/howard-schiffer-06741711/

 

Time Stamps:

00:00 Introduction

3:06 Who is Howard Schiffer?

7:35 What’s a standout initiative you’ve worked on over the years that made a real impact?

16:02 The importance of nutrition and the need for vitamins

17:01 The difficulties of getting recognized/approved by major health organizations

20:14 How Vitamin Angles handle sudden health crises

23:31 Non profit collaboration

26:15 Eliminating newborn mortality due to vitamin deficiency

33:17 The impact of taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy

39:23 Finding happiness and fulfillment in giving back to the world

 

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Transcript

Corinna Bellizzi: Hello fellow do gooders and friends i'm your host Corinna Bellizzi, an activist and cause marketer who's passionate about social impact and sustainability. I'd like to invite all of you to join us for vibrant discussions about the topics we cover on this show and many more on clubhouse. As with all of our social platforms our handle is care more be better, but for clubhouse and Twitter just leave out that final he and better. If you like what we're doing you can support the show by sharing it with friends and keep it ad free by donating directly on our site just visit care more be better calm.

I've spent the better part of my career working in the natural products industry, specifically in the world of Omega threes and vitamins, because I know how much good great nutrition can do for people. By working in this field, I get to help people of all walks of life live a healthier life so they can do more of what they love with those they live. This is the industry, I fell in love with when I was a recent college Grad back in the late 90s, I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I just didn't have the stomach for more debt to pursue that PhD. Now, as a forever idealist I fell in love with natural products in sales and marketing and I fell in love with an equally idealistic crew of inspired people.

It was when I worked long hours leading the sales marketing and education of Nordic naturals in the early 2000s that I had the pleasure of meeting our guest today Howard Schiffer. I distinctly remember being in our booth I think it was. our first time having a 20 by 20 island, a feat for any company when, Howard came by wanting to talk about vitamin angels, and the things they were doing on a global scale, as they sought to end infant blindness, by providing pregnant and nursing women as well as children with vitamin A I still get chills thinking about that moment I loved the story, he told.

Now Howard, has an interesting history that includes starting out as a midwife perhaps a different career for a man. Then moving into the natural products industry and subsequently founding vitamin angels back in 1994 vitamin angels mission remains clear and very similar today they are dedicated to protecting the health of of mothers and children in need. They are dedicated to protecting the health of mothers and children in need, they reach over 60 million underserved pregnant women and children, and over 65 countries and in all 50 states Howard, my friend, welcome to the show.

Howard Schiffer: so glad to be here Corinna.

Corinna Bellizzi: I remember hearing your daughter speak as you were acknowledged at a Vitamin Shoppe’s fundraising event, a few years ago and wow what a speech that was it really was amazing to hear from your family's perspective, about what you do at vitamin angels all the hours you put into this. And the sacrifices, you made over the years to get it off the ground! As we open the discussion I'd like to invite you to share that story, why did you feel so compelled to take on this effort.

Howard Schiffer: what's called update you a little bit first on that that daughter that you saw liana, who is now pursuing a doctorate degree. In nurse midwifery so so I feel like my life has become has come around full circle and vitamin shoppe is still a partner, and the only thing I want to want to add to in your opening, which was so generous is about me being self sacrificing what i've always said, is that, before I got into this work. I feel like I was sacrificing myself now I feel like i've gotten myself back so the work is so rewarding and I.: Any listener, who wants to make their life better to really change the world in a positive way, we need you, and the world needs, you and I feel like that what you will get back my experiences 100 fold, of whatever you put in my journey has been very circuitous not anything that was planned I didn't get a degree. In midwifery nor did I get a degree in business, nor did I know anything about nonprofits when I started vitamin angels, they just followed. My passion and things are interesting to me and the first thing, as you mentioned, was nurse nurse midwifery, and this was the early part of the home birth movement when women were first starting to take back their own power in having a child and One of the first groups, interestingly enough, was in Santa Cruz, and we were part of the home birth movement and I really got to learn about prenatal health and nutrition and the critical role nutrition played in healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, many of the one we saw with vegans and vegetarians they would come in with low iron count the doctors would be ready to hospitalized them. And when they would meme about food combining get them on Google or observable and within a month, we would turn around their iron counts and they were feeling great that energy and they went on to have healthy pregnancies and happy babies and curiously enough. A lot of our work today with vitamin angels is again with prenatal nutrition and getting women to take a multiple prenatal, which is what we've always done. As opposed to iron folic acid, which is what's recommended by most governments and World Health Organization, but we've seen and now there's research to show. Amazingly positive results from the multiple and with anemic women in particular 38% of all pregnant women are an email, I mean it can be life threatening for the mother and the baby i'm by taking a multiple prenatal vitamins and minerals in it there's a 29% reduction in infant mortality and babies dying at six months 29% I mean, so I feel like that that work that i've done has really come around full circle and what compelled me was just I wasn't happy anymore I wasn't happy, you know I gone from midwifery to the vitamin industry, I was, like you, I found people that I really resonated with that we're trying to make positive changes, make the world healthier start taking back care of ourselves, instead of just turning it over to Western medicine. But after 14 years it became a business and what's the next top product and what's the next hot trend and that wasn't enough for me I kept thinking I have all these connections I should be able to do something with them and then there was an earthquake in southern California, we got a call. The vitamin company, I was owned got a call from a relief group that was doing medical supplies and they need the vitamins For farm workers who were displaced from their homes because of the earthquake, and that was a starter vitamin angels, I mean it was just at that time I had no idea honestly I thought I mean even for myself, I thought vitamins were about peak performance or getting sick less often if you got sick, you know you would get over it more quickly, I had no concept of vitamins actually were a centerpiece of public health, that they were one of the most successful public health interventions in the last 50 years but nobody had a consistent high quality, reliable supply and that's what vitamin angels was able to do.

Corinna Bellizzi: Well, I think that 29% reduction that you talk about of infant mortality at six months, I mean that is a commendable thing to tackle.

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Corinna Bellizzi: I think it especially here in the West, we start to get this concept that.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Well, everyone here is relatively healthy we don't see as high of levels of infant mortality, as you might in some other countries, but that isn't necessarily true if you start to get to some of the food deserts right and.

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Corinna Bellizzi: inner city urban areas where people are relying on really junk food for their staples so I wondered if you could talk about what we're doing what you're doing rather here in the States to help rectify that.

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Corinna Bellizzi: And then, perhaps you could share an example of a particular initiative you undertook over the last few years.

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Corinna Bellizzi: That really just jumps out to you as an example of the type of work you do, or a person or family or able to affect.

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Howard Schiffer: OK.

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Howard Schiffer: So the work in the US is.

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Howard Schiffer: Significant it's in every state in the United States, as you mentioned, there are food deserts in every state in the United States there are people.

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Howard Schiffer: That are not getting enough nutrition communities that have been marginalized indigenous communities undocumented communities people of color be lucky next the black communities.

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Howard Schiffer: have much higher rates of infinite maternal mortality and, if you look at the list actually globally.

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Howard Schiffer: um countries like Sweden and Japan Singapore, Canada, those are like those are at the top of the lowest rates of mothers and babies dying, the US is like number 35 down on the list.

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Howard Schiffer: And some of the Communities, like black women have a two to three times higher chance of not being able to survive pregnancy or having their babies died, I mean that's it's quite significant, and I think racism, of course, has played a big part in that.

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Howard Schiffer: The The fact of poverty and just not having access to the right healthcare to health care that's available, I know we work with a lot of.

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Howard Schiffer: Migrant Workers around the country, a lot of undocumented people and it's not easy for them to even get to.

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Howard Schiffer: The clinic and then, and then the cost involved is sometimes prohibitive just for them to even get multiple vitamin for pregnancy so there's a lot of work to be done, and right now we are since we started our global prenatal campaign.

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Howard Schiffer: we're reaching about 20% of the unmet need for getting prenatal multiples to pregnant women in our own country, so we have a lot of work to be done here at home and I visited.

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Howard Schiffer: These communities, and when you meet the women and meet the children um you realize that it's happening right here at home, and when you hear these.

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Howard Schiffer: stories about you know husbands, who have lost their wives, you know, during childbirth, I mean people in a lot of no more affluent communities don't think of childbirth, has a life threatening event.

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Howard Schiffer: Back in poor communities and communities that have been marginalized it's sometimes it's a life threatening event, and this is exactly.

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Howard Schiffer: What we've seen around the world, I mean there were parts of Africa sub Saharan Africa, where a woman had a one third chance of dying during childbirth.

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Howard Schiffer: You know where the infant mortality rate was was really high I remember a Community up in the Andes improve this little little community to grundy and.

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Howard Schiffer: We were up there for years ago and I went to meet a doctor Kareem, who was a who was working there.

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Howard Schiffer: And she had been there about five years, which is right about what right after.

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Howard Schiffer: She got there we actually started getting prenatal multiples to the women there and I said what was it like you know when you first got here, and she said it was really bad.

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Howard Schiffer: She said it would be the mortality rate for women are babies was about 30% almost one in three babies or mothers would not survive.

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Howard Schiffer: childbirth and I said why that's shocking and but then vitamin angels came in with prenatal multiples.

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Howard Schiffer: And this group we're working with the say upper room, which is all indigenous health care workers started training, the women in the villages.

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Howard Schiffer: about how to do, health care and how to identify if the woman was in danger she's having a problem, and I mean I remember sometimes the healthcare workers would have to.

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Howard Schiffer: walk up for an hour to the top of the mountain to go to get a cell signal, so they can call a clinic to tell them.

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Howard Schiffer: know that there was a woman in distress, and you know, sometimes women would have to walk for two or three hours down the mountain to get to a clinic to get help.

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Howard Schiffer: And I said cream, you know how has How has it been now is you know, has it improved it oh yeah that's completely different, so how many how many babies are moms are dying, you know this year, she said, none and.

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Howard Schiffer: And that you know it's that we see this all the time, I mean I see it in so many villages.

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Howard Schiffer: We get to an Africa, where the first time we show up women will come to their first visit and you'll see they'll have their hand kind of clenched.

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Howard Schiffer: And you realize there's a clump of dirt in their hand and they're chewing on dirt and that's the only source of minerals in their environment, their body is craving minerals so much.

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Howard Schiffer: They know they need it, and so the only source is you know it's, and this is gets passed down from mother to daughter is there's dirt it has a high mineral content but, of course.

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Howard Schiffer: you're also has parasites and meat and germs and it's you know not healthy at all T within a week after getting our prenatal multiples.

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Howard Schiffer: The women will come back and say oh i'm no longer crave some it just it goes away really quickly and.

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Howard Schiffer: When we come back you know, nine months later, a year later, the women Old Testament say you know for my first baby.

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Howard Schiffer: I was always tired I couldn't get up I couldn't work at all, I was always exhausted now look at me i'm strong and i'm healthy and i'm working in the shama the garden every day.

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Howard Schiffer: i'm able to help my family women who couldn't nurse will say I have enough milk now to nurse twin women whose first baby weighed three pounds will say wow after I took the prenatal multiple my baby was seven pounds.

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Howard Schiffer: yeah I mean again and again and again we hear your stories that nothing else has changed, I mean this is what's so amazing to me is that the diet hasn't changed it's still pretty minimal it's oh golly is a corn partridge maybe some Greens.

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Howard Schiffer: The economy hasn't changed they're still poor they still haven't you know just getting by enough money.

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Howard Schiffer: Their.

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Howard Schiffer: Geography hasn't changed they're still living in the same place everything's basically the same but we've added this one piece getting them a prenatal multiple and all of a sudden.

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Howard Schiffer: there's a pretty dramatic difference and these babies that are born, I mean the difference between a three pound and a seven pound baby.

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Howard Schiffer: know a bigger baby just there they're a little bit more stable, they have a little bit higher chance, I mean the three top baby can still make it but they're more vulnerable.

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Howard Schiffer: Bigger baby, just as a better chance of surviving and so you know we've seen this and any the research that was done.

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Howard Schiffer: When we first got really interested in the global premier.

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Howard Schiffer: Was comparing.

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Howard Schiffer: The multiple creator with iron folic acid, which, as I said, that's the recommendation that's what a government's going to get out.

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Howard Schiffer: that's what World Health Organization is recommended for years iron folic acid, but when they showed, you know the double blind study with women and took the multiple.

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Howard Schiffer: Compared to the arm folic acid the multiple prenatal woman on had a 12% reduction in low birth weight babies.

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Howard Schiffer: And a 10% reduction in small for gestational age babies and both of those being small for gestational age or being low birth weight, those are indicators of whether a baby is going to be healthy, or even if a baby might survive and the woman who took the multiple prenatal at a 9%.

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Howard Schiffer: Reduction in stillborn verse I mean again nothing else has changed but boy what you know quite I mean in public health, where you get a 10% change.

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Howard Schiffer: From from a intervention that's significant I mean that's like where you could really have an impact, and I think that's that's what vitamin angels has been so excited about.

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Howard Schiffer: Recently, is that we've really seen the opportunity to really grow this campaign, you know around the world in the US, but also in 70 countries around the world.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Now I know when you got your start you were hyper focused on vitamin A and specifically because you had a quest to end infant blindness that was nutrient born right.

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Howard Schiffer: It was yes childhood blindness actually we were starting at six months to five years that's when when most children would go blind from vitamin A deficiency.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Which is I mean incredible I remember you telling me a story from years ago about the communities, you were impacting in Peru, where the diet was mostly consisting of potatoes.

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Corinna Bellizzi: several different species of potatoes right and there were two year olds and three year olds who were just kind of developing the ability to walk I mean we don't think about how.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Much nutrition and core vitamins can impact a child's early development here in the West, because we see these types of challenges, so rarely right.

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Howard Schiffer: Because our food supplies, been fortified for.

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Howard Schiffer: decades.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Right, you know drink milk you get vitamins a and D.

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Corinna Bellizzi: You know.

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Corinna Bellizzi: You saw.

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Corinna Bellizzi: You get iodine.

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Corinna Bellizzi: So this initiative that you're undertaking shifting to a multivitamin How does that impact the work that you're doing with vitamin A is it replacing it because I imagine you're including vitamin A and these multis.

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Howard Schiffer: Yes, no, we, the vitamin I came back campaign is thriving continues to grow last year, even with Kobe and we're able to reach I think 62 million children the.

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Howard Schiffer: Global creative campaign at the same time as grown when we started the global piano campaign at the beginning of 2018 we're reaching 500,000.

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Howard Schiffer: Women we jump to 2 million now we're at 4 million women and babies will be at 7 million by the end of this year, so so both campaigns need to increase, we also do the D warming campaign.

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Howard Schiffer: We do breastfeeding advocacy we have some young child feeding programs and then we're also doing a lot of research now about implementation science like.

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Howard Schiffer: What does it take to really make sure that the woman will be interested in taking a multiple prenatal but then we'll continue taking it for a whole pregnancy, what are the.

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Howard Schiffer: parameters that are going to make that more likely to occur and will allow us to scale up and intervention on a national level.

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Howard Schiffer: we've increased our monitoring and evaluation, so we make sure that our partners are doing it right, we have a lot more E learning now training programs.

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Howard Schiffer: As we become more and more of a global organization we've had to add capacity so that we can really do our job, even better, even be more efficient.

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Corinna Bellizzi: yeah I recall also years ago when I was with Nordic naturals we did a thrive to five campaign and collaboration with vitamin angels in the Dominican Republic, I wondered if you're doing anything in the Omega three space presently alongside this multiple intervention.

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Howard Schiffer: Not not yet we continue to monitor, I myself have taken Omega three every day I believe in them in the world that we're working in there has to be enough peer reviewed published double blind studies that are recognized by major public health universities global organization so.

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Howard Schiffer: They often take a lot longer when things come right, I mean even vitamin A.

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Howard Schiffer: Even after the research was done with vitamin A.

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Howard Schiffer: It took 10 years for World Health Organization to make the recommendation with phase in the same thing right now with multiple prenatal.

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Howard Schiffer: Research is there, I mean it's so dramatic and much more significant than anything that was ever done with our folk acid.

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Howard Schiffer: World Health is slowly starting to change the recommendation, but they haven't completely flipped over yet, I mean.

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Howard Schiffer: It takes a long time for these international agencies to get on board and and you know we're facing the same thing with Omega threes is that they're just you know I think they're becoming more and more aware, but it just takes a long time to get there.

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Howard Schiffer: yeah captains and of course we are so visible right now we have to kind of, we have to go by international standards and best practices and it's just kind of incumbent upon us.

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Corinna Bellizzi: plot along one foot in front of the other.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Now, every time there's a dramatically impacted Community around the globe i've seen vitamin angels step up to the plate and say we're here to help.

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Corinna Bellizzi: I remember a few years back when Haiti was hit hard with one tragedy after another, that you were very much at central stage there, so can you talk a little bit about how your team tackles these emergent sorts of need that come out of seeming left field.

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Howard Schiffer: yeah it's very.

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Howard Schiffer: In all transparency it's incredibly difficult in a disaster situation, and I mean the first thing we have to establish is logistics, you know what are the.

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Howard Schiffer: What are the opportunities to get product through a port of entry, you know, is there a local partner.

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Howard Schiffer: That we're already working with and that will be able to clear customs Is it safe, I mean, I will be will will will be able to protect.

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Howard Schiffer: Our partners and then just what are the barriers, you know with communication with transportation, with even you know simple things like warehousing to be able to stage, an intervention so.

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Howard Schiffer: As soon as we can get into areas I mean sometimes like Syria.

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Howard Schiffer: I remember it took us a year and a half to be able to work there to find the right partner, and then to get a route in that was safe, I mean that we can be assured that our product will be able to reach the refugee camp so.

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Howard Schiffer: it's.

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Howard Schiffer: it's a continual challenge and the areas where there is civil strife war, where there's a natural disaster.

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Howard Schiffer: You know, right now, there's a pandemic, there are just added challenges I mean we've been doing this long enough that we know kind of some of the.

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Howard Schiffer: obstacles and some of the workarounds that we could do, and you know right now we are in contact with a lot of governments and fortunately in a lot of these situations people now recognize that, for instance, if.

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Howard Schiffer: measles vaccines are interrupted, which in the last year they've been interrupted a lot well, one of the recommendations is is that once.

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Howard Schiffer: measles carrbridge a measles, you know used to kill two to 3 million children a year, so I mean it's you don't think of it as serious, but it has been very serious globally.

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Howard Schiffer: That once measles coverage goes below 90% there's a recommendation to start doing vitamin A immediately because vitamin A not only prevents child to blindness, but actually helps build the immune system.

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Howard Schiffer: And that's I mean I think that's the brilliant work at number Dr summers did was that um he really showed that.

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Howard Schiffer: You could reduce child mortality about to 24% with just too high dose vitamin A doses a year and it's you know so it's it's one of the things that we focused on and in countries.

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Howard Schiffer: That had been hit by a pandemic or natural disaster getting something like a vitamin A or, of course, pre nails is critical, because food supply lines are going to be down.

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Howard Schiffer: Women, you know people are out of jobs, like in our own country as well they're going to make less nutritious food choices or they're not going to have food available and so getting in with basic nutrition is just you know, is a godsend I mean it really makes a difference.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Now there are a few not for profits that I think of as you kind of run through the gauntlet of all of the countries you're serving like doctors without borders and.

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Corinna Bellizzi: America there's is, for example, where you know they're really working to get into communities and also help to improve the health of people there.

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Corinna Bellizzi: So I wondered if you'd formed any sort of strategic alliances with some of these groups, particularly in a time like this and we're working and living in a pandemic.

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Howard Schiffer: Always yes, in fact, our ability to do our work has been really helped by international organizations like world vision or Save the Children.

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Howard Schiffer: Are international some our implementation partners actually help us to the work summer strategic partners in that they're either working with research or with governments that we work with them to create an enabling environment.

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Howard Schiffer: so that we could maybe look toward building.

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Howard Schiffer: A coalition that could help launch a national multiple prenatal campaign.

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Howard Schiffer: it's.

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Howard Schiffer: it's reflective of the time that there are a lot of people trying to do good in the world and people will you know approach it.

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Howard Schiffer: In a slightly different way mean, some people are focusing on medical some people are focusing on infrastructure, some people are focusing on working with governments, you know vitamin angels focus has always been.

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Howard Schiffer: Very simple nutrition vitamin interventions nutrition interventions and then we focus on reaching the unreachable you know who's not being reached.

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Howard Schiffer: By the big agencies who's not being reached by the government who's not being reached by the primary healthcare system.

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Howard Schiffer: let's get to those people, you know those people, probably more at risk and and we can fill in a gap and really help you know the government and anybody else you know solve part of the problem that's not being sold and so.

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Howard Schiffer: You tend to find kind of all the other good players, once you get out into the field and everybody sees each other and.

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Howard Schiffer: You know they'd find out, you know they're building deep water wells and they're putting up schools for children and fortunately.

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Howard Schiffer: Vitamins happen to work really well with a lot of those other interventions and oftentimes are critical I mean you can build all the schools, you want.

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Howard Schiffer: But if the kids aren't healthy enough aren't going to be able to concentrate they're not going to do much good so.

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Howard Schiffer: oftentimes will partner with those organizations say well look you're already building schools, why don't you get the kids you know into a nutrition program we could do a vitamin A campaign and that might really help you out and they're more than thrilled to to be able to participate.

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Corinna Bellizzi: yeah I mean, as you tell these stories, I get the sense that your work, essentially will never be done.

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Corinna Bellizzi: There will.

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Corinna Bellizzi: always be more to do.

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Corinna Bellizzi: But I wonder as you've developed this goal, this decision that you're.

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Corinna Bellizzi: That vitamin angels has just made to eliminate newborn mortality due to vitamin deficiency related diseases by 2030 that's a bold goal it's it feels like 2030 isn't even that far.

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Corinna Bellizzi: off, so I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about how you intend to get there and what you think.

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Corinna Bellizzi: The path forward could be after that for vitamin angels like let's say you've been successful in doing this, then what's next.

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Howard Schiffer: You know, we um.

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Howard Schiffer: When we first started working in this area, those numbers sounded monumental to me, I mean when we first heard your people would say well how about when you reach.

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Howard Schiffer: 5 million children or 10 million it well, that were that were there, you know we got there, but, of course, once we got there, I thought, well, we could reach 20 million, you know, was it kept going forward but, but if you look globally.

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Howard Schiffer: And you know, since 1960 so now 60 years later, that was when they first started counting.

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Howard Schiffer: children's desk for children under five.

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Howard Schiffer: And at that time in 1960 was about 20 million children under five were dying every year, which is an astral communities like 57 or 67 60,000 every day, I mean just shocking.

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Howard Schiffer: In the last 60 years.

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Howard Schiffer: The population of the world has over I mean it was 2 billion in 1960 now it's over 7 billion so it's over tripled in 60 years, but the number of children dying.

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Howard Schiffer: has gone way down it's almost it's dropped by about three quarters went from 20 million to under 5 million.

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Howard Schiffer: wow under you know and that's that's an A you know talk about.

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Howard Schiffer: it's not that long of a time you know it's within our lifetime that's dropped considerably and when they look at the reasons why it's dropped.

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Howard Schiffer: it's just a handful of interventions, I mean it's very simple, of course, immunization and vaccination campaigns which people are dealing with right now with coven.

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Howard Schiffer: mosquito nets for malaria, promoting exclusive breastfeeding for six months, but vitamin interventions are one of that.

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Howard Schiffer: That Pantheon at the top, that have had this tremendous public health impact, so we will get there, I mean we're already well on our way to our goals with the vitamin A campaign.

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Howard Schiffer: You know, we can be there, you know, and then I far distant future, the we're making tremendous progress with the.

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Howard Schiffer: Global prenatal campaign and my hope would be that by 2030 that we that every woman in the world.

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Howard Schiffer: Does have access to a really good multiple prenatal vitamin so she can have a healthy pregnancy and health ab and then we had to start working with.

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Howard Schiffer: preconception women, because I think that that's probably even where there's a greater opportunity public health people for years have been watching things like stunting and wasting studying his children are too small for their age, wasting is there too thin.

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Howard Schiffer: And when we go to countries, I mean when I first started doing this work and I go to a country, I see a young.

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Howard Schiffer: boy, you know sitting on some steps in front of his home and i'd say how old, are you I would swear that he was maybe nine years old.

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Howard Schiffer: I end, would be a stretch, and he would say i'm 14 or 15 and the like, and you realize that generational malnutrition.

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Howard Schiffer: These children are traumatic means they're just physically they're not reaching their potential and it's we've seen it in countries.

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Howard Schiffer: That have high adoption programs like Guatemala, where children are that have been adopted at birth, taken from the village brought up in a country where they're being able to give.

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Howard Schiffer: Given good nutrition and they go back to their village, you know, five years later, and if you put kids against the wall at a school and Guatemala.

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Howard Schiffer: and draw media mind, for how tall, you would expect a five year old to be every child in the village that's been raised in Guatemala, will be a head shorter than that medium line.

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Howard Schiffer: All the kids that were raised, like in the US and given good nutrition, will be a head above that line so that's a tremendous difference and physical growth oftentimes mirror is cognitive development so there's you know the the impact.

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Howard Schiffer: Long term for a child's productivity, for their.

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Howard Schiffer: Physical structure for their ability to earn money, I mean it's been shown to be dramatically less when they're not malnourished and I think.

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Howard Schiffer: You know, we have the opportunity to really start changing that and and when researchers looked.

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Howard Schiffer: At they've had a very hard time moving the dial and things like wasting and stunting and what's now becoming obvious as it's probably necessary.

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Howard Schiffer: To reach that child before the age of two that so much happens between conception.

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Howard Schiffer: And two years old, what they call the first thousand days that if you really want to start moving the dial if you really want to start helping that child to not have study or not have wasting.

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Howard Schiffer: If you start to get to them early enough that's where you can start to have the impact and my belief not backed by research yet is that if you can start to look at preconception probably have even a bigger impact, and you know people assume.

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Howard Schiffer: When they see these children often that well that's just the way it is that those people are small, but it's the biggest lie.

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Howard Schiffer: Is that that's not what they're looking at is generational malnutrition now when when I grew up there was a racist stereotype about people from Japan being very small and very slight.

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Howard Schiffer: And I remember, years ago, a friend who's a professor went to Japan to teach and he brought his 18 year old daughter and.

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Howard Schiffer: Afterwards I said Terry I said how was it for Naomi to be there, and he said was he said, you know she got a lot of attention because she's blonde.

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Howard Schiffer: And you know California girl I said no, I said I mean she was probably so much taller than everybody, and he said, oh no he said everybody's just as taller taller than she is now and I realized that after World War Two.

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Howard Schiffer: When Japan started being able to increase the levels of what economies are going up in the nutrition level started going up that within a couple of generations that completely changed.

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Howard Schiffer: And then, when you looked at the grandparents.

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Howard Schiffer: In Japan, they were still small, but when you looked at the you know this third next two generations like be their grandchildren their grandchildren were.

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Howard Schiffer: You know the height, that you would expect, so so these things are doable you know, these things are not set in stone.

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Howard Schiffer: It just takes the conviction and the commitment to say you know we're going to make sure that people have a chance for a healthy and productive life and one of the ways to do that is getting them basic nutrition vitamins early enough ideally in their pregnancy or even preconception.

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Corinna Bellizzi: yeah well, I think you know here in the West, we think about it as a prenatal multivitamin right that's what most of them are called.

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Corinna Bellizzi: And we're encouraged to take them when we're trying to conceive and now you're talking about populations that don't necessarily have the resources to go to a store and pick up a bottle of vitamins so.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Working on this intervention, I think, is critical, I applaud the effort you know, I was actually advised interestingly by my.

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Corinna Bellizzi: By my midwives after I had given birth, with my second child, they said well you know if you're not trying to get pregnant again there's no real reason to keep taking your vitamins.

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Corinna Bellizzi: And I just looked at them going.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Excuse me i'm still breastfeeding over here, which I intended to do for a full year.

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Corinna Bellizzi: And so I.

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Corinna Bellizzi: knowing what I know kept taking my multivitamin I kept taking my fish oil as I always do.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Because I mean heck i've spent 20 years reading the research, as you have you know the birth weights go way up my second child was almost nine pounds 22 inches long you know, Nice and healthy baby boy my first was eight pounds six ounces.

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Howard Schiffer: You know, birth, the babies.

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Corinna Bellizzi: yeah and I was over 40 you know so as a geriatric mother.

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Corinna Bellizzi: As they like to call you.

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Corinna Bellizzi: I had really good nutrition because of all the things I knew like you get enough vitamin A and D birth weights go up you get enough Omega threes birth weights also go up.

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Corinna Bellizzi: You get enough Omega threes likelihood of postpartum depression seems to go down now i'm not going to say that I was completely you know, without symptom throughout pregnancy that isn't the reality I suffered from morning sickness, just like a lot of women do.

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Corinna Bellizzi: I suffered from some pain, towards the end of the pregnancy just from all that extra weight you're carrying around had difficulty sleeping.

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Corinna Bellizzi: You know there isn't a magic bullet pill for all of that stuff but the journey, for me, was really good and even as that geriatric mom.

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Corinna Bellizzi: At the you know maternity ward of the hospital, I was told by the nurses there, you may be my oldest mother, but you're also my healthiest.

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Corinna Bellizzi: me and.

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Howard Schiffer: Also, for your children.

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Howard Schiffer: That you see that play out you mentioned, there three six now.

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Howard Schiffer: yeah you know i'm gonna make a bowl guest, but they might be, they get sick less often or they're just a little bit more resistant is that is that you know the way they've developed as far as their.

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Howard Schiffer: You know, physical development walking you know.

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Howard Schiffer: You just you see a difference is that these kids and you can see it in the villages that we go to the kids that have gotten vitamins and the kids that haven't.

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Howard Schiffer: mean kids have gotten Member just they're healthier they don't get sick as often they develop that a little bit of faster rate they're just more.

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Howard Schiffer: able to deal with the world and they're not vulnerable, and then we still are living in a world where children are dying from an infection or diarrhea.

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Howard Schiffer: or common cold.

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Howard Schiffer: And because their immune systems are so weak and I think what you did, for your children is that you help.

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Howard Schiffer: put them on the road to healthy immune system, I think if there's anything that the last year has taught us is how critical a strong immune system is I mean it's just it's our ticket to.

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Howard Schiffer: To be able to meet the world these days is the world is not always safe and a strong immune system just gives you a little bit added protection.

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Corinna Bellizzi: And how I completely agree well speaking to my kids my my first child super verbal super cerebral.

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Corinna Bellizzi: By 15 months, he was already talking.

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Corinna Bellizzi: His first sentence to me was at that age and he said mama I don't feel well.

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Corinna Bellizzi: i'm.

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Corinna Bellizzi: I swear I thought it was like a figment of my imagination.

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Corinna Bellizzi: But, as he developed verbally very, very young, he would correct himself like he would say something like I don't feel good, oh no I don't feel well like even as he was talking i'm just like really wow and my second child.

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Corinna Bellizzi: When he gets sick it's almost like he just never complains about it, like it's so mild it doesn't seem to really affect him very much.

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Corinna Bellizzi: He might have a fever, but he's in he's a little fussy but otherwise you wouldn't be able to tell the so my husband and I we just like a feeling, this is a sick kids like we're doing great.

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You.

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Howard Schiffer: know you know I mean what I think is.

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Howard Schiffer: horrible and and a reality that we've got to confront now, and I think as a parent, you can really appreciate that and Bill Gates is this is that not every child health is being given equal value around the world.

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Howard Schiffer: I think one of the reasons that vitamin angels is welcomed.

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Howard Schiffer: into these villages in the United States, who small these poor communities and these communities all around the world, because that we're saying look I want the same thing, for your children that I want from my children.

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Howard Schiffer: I want right, hopefully, I want them to be able to have a chance at a good life, and you know Corinne i've i've done this for 27 years.

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Howard Schiffer: And for 27 years i've asked my mom than women in these countries what they want, for their children and whether I am in Mississippi or Mozambique or Mumbai India.

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Howard Schiffer: Every woman for 27 years they always say the two same things they always say I want my kids to be healthy.

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Howard Schiffer: And I want them to be able to go to school, or you know, be able to have a good life go to you know, to do something, productive and I think has a pair of myself and i'm imagining for you to that's all we all want, is that you know our.

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Corinna Bellizzi: kids.

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Howard Schiffer: come out of here like you count the fingers that you just want them to be healthy if they're healthy and they can go to school and learn, you know you've done a lot and I.

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Howard Schiffer: Think what we're saying and vitamin angels is that that should not be a privilege, a lot of to a few that should be a right for everyone, every mother every child.

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Howard Schiffer: Every baby everywhere, should have that right, and you know we don't have all the answers, but we have one answer I can make a difference.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Well, I, I completely agree now, before we wrap up I would love to just offer you the floor for a moment and say heck if there's something I haven't asked you that I wished, you had.

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Corinna Bellizzi: What would it be, or if you have a closing thought that you'd like to share with all the audience might be listening today.

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Howard Schiffer: You know I, for me, one of the things I I think this is true for you to kareena is that.

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Howard Schiffer: I almost died when I was 30 years old and I got blood poisoning and wound up in a coma and I was in a coma for over 10 days I was completely gone and, in fact, if you look at my hospital chart.

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Howard Schiffer: It says prognosis is poor 90% chance, he will not make it and I saw at that time, I mean, I had a very clear, I always thought going into that.

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Howard Schiffer: That, if I was going to die, it would be a major event, I mean it would be I would know you know I would get you know.

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Howard Schiffer: Tuberculosis how we get some kind of big disease or something would happen that I would kind of see the freight train coming.

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Howard Schiffer: But this was you know cold that you know I wasn't sure what was going on my breathing got tight and all of a sudden, I was in the intensive care and went into this coma.

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Howard Schiffer: And I saw that the thread that connected me to this life was really thin and it really could snap in any moment and I came out of that and I thought, why I need to do something good with my need to do something big.

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Howard Schiffer: To do something big with my life Now this is, you know, probably.

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Howard Schiffer: 1415 years before I founded vitamin angels but that's that that thought really stuck with me is that our time is short.

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Howard Schiffer: You know and it's like it's just really clear meme you look at things that happen in our world today with a pandemic, or with the mass shootings that have happened in Atlanta in boulder recently I mean those people woke up.

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Howard Schiffer: They were going about their day and just were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you know crazy person killed them and.

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Howard Schiffer: us realize that we don't know how long we have, and my belief is.

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Howard Schiffer: That we're here to help each other, otherwise we'll just be one person on the planet, but we have all these people and we're supposed to learn from each other, was supposed to do something.

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Howard Schiffer: worthwhile and I, you know Mark Twain said, the two most important days in your life, the day you were born and the day you figure out why.

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Howard Schiffer: And I think our you know our purpose Our job is that once we figure out why is that we're here to contribute and everybody.

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Howard Schiffer: you're doing this podcast i'm doing vitamin angels everybody has this unique piece.

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Howard Schiffer: That they could do that they have the talent, they have the passion to do, and each of those pieces really contributes and and what i've said, and I said at the beginning, when we were talking is that.

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Howard Schiffer: Once you start to align your life like that happiness is just the result is that you're just you feel very fulfilled you feel like this is great, you know i'm doing something that really.

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Howard Schiffer: is in line with with what I think is important that i'm making a difference in you know we get into these communities and us around the world.

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Howard Schiffer: These women and children and dads are so happy to see us they're like nobody gets into these communities, I mean they're not.

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Howard Schiffer: The areas that that a lot of resources are being put, and the fact that we show up people are so.

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Howard Schiffer: You know so thankful they invite me into their homes and they let me play with their children and they don't have a lot, but whatever they have they want to share and it feels.

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Howard Schiffer: Like such an honor it feels like such a gift that I get to kind of share with them, you know our lives and they get to teach me, I mean they teach me.

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Howard Schiffer: About generosity and about kindness and about caring and and I always feel that I have as much to learn from them as, as we have to give them and so.

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Howard Schiffer: To me it's, this is the chance that we have and you're taking it and i'm taking it, I would just encourage your listeners to find that find that why find you know what you're what you're here to do and and follow that because services, the key I mean that if we.

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Howard Schiffer: can help each other out.

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Howard Schiffer: there's a chance for us our world to get better and and you know people will say you're an optimist, and I say I just i'm looking at all the people around the world that we're working with and that are you know doing similar work there's a lot of them.

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Howard Schiffer: mean there is a.

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Howard Schiffer: lot of a lot of people who are trying to make this world a better place and to get to be part of that feels wonderful.

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Corinna Bellizzi: So that's yeah I agree, I mean, as I left Nordic naturals and that was back in summer of 2011 after building this you know behemoth of a brand and taking as my mission in life to correct the global Omega three deficiency right like that's what we were doing.

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Corinna Bellizzi: But I realized, as I was leaving that that wasn't necessarily my mission on this planet.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Right and because it wasn't my mission that late into my decision to leave because I was so hyper focused on this company that I couldn't see anything else right.

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Corinna Bellizzi: And so my thought was clearly like I am here to live well by doing good and help other people on that same path and so since leaving you know, almost a decade ago now.

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Corinna Bellizzi: I have continually kind of pursued that trying to figure out how what's the how how am I going to do that.

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Corinna Bellizzi: How am I going to do that a little better well, let me see I want to go get my MBA I want to study a little bit more, I want to understand business a little bit better.

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Corinna Bellizzi: i'm almost there right but i'm also chomping at the bit to do more, and so I looked at this podcast as a way to do that because I could invite people on a journey tell some stories that are impactful.

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Corinna Bellizzi: and hopefully inspire them to be part of the change, they want to see or to just step up raise their hand and say I can help in some small way.

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Corinna Bellizzi: You know, by sharing examples like these that I might inspire the next person to go start some global initiative that becomes.

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Corinna Bellizzi: The next big thing to help people in another way, or to potentially solve.

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Corinna Bellizzi: Some sustainability issue that we haven't thought of yet or that we haven't seen a solution for So if I can reach just a couple of people with every show, and you know inspire them to act in some way then i'm doing something.

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Howard Schiffer: yeah absolutely.

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Corinna Bellizzi: there's also been the beautiful benefit of being able to connect with people like yourself that i've known for years and whose story I have wanted more people to hear, so thank you for joining me today.

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Howard Schiffer: Well, such a pleasure such a really enjoyed our conversation.

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Corinna Bellizzi: yeah now I like to invite our audience to act that action could be as simple as sharing this podcast with people in your Community or donating time, energy or skills.

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Corinna Bellizzi: To fantastic not for profits like vitamin angels, they are California based so if you're lucky enough to be based in Santa Barbara you might want to hit them up.

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Corinna Bellizzi: I can say that given a long history of working with them that everyone that works for or with them loves them so seriously if you're looking for a charity to cut your teeth with you'll be lucky to start there.

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Corinna Bellizzi: To find more suggestions like this, you can always visit our action page at care more be better calm you'll find causes and companies, we encourage you to support.

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Corinna Bellizzi: And again, I invite you to join the conversation and be a part of the Community we're building at care more be better calm.

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Corinna Bellizzi: You can also find us on social spaces at care more be better and on clubhouse at care more be better or just leave at that final even better.

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Corinna Bellizzi: You can send a DM on any platform or an email to hello, a camera be better.com Thank you listeners now and always for being a part of this pot, and this Community because, together, we can do so much more. 

Howard Schiffer

President & Founder

Following a successful 14-year career in the natural foods industry developing quality products and turning them into best sellers through innovative marketing and promotions, Howard founded Vitamin Angels in 1994. From its inception, Vitamin Angels has worked to stop malnutrition from the start for mothers and children in need worldwide. Last year, Vitamin Angels reached more than 70 million at-risk pregnant women and children in 74 countries, including the U.S. Under Howard’s leadership, Vitamin Angels has become the largest distributor of vitamin A to the non-profit and faith-based community globally.

In 2018, Howard announced a new goal for Vitamin Angels: to eliminate infant mortality surrounding childbirth due to vitamin deficiency diseases by the year 2030. To improve birth outcomes and save lives on a global scale, the organization is aiming to reach 50 million women annually with prenatal multivitamins by 2030. Howard and Vitamin Angels’ work have been featured in a number of major news and media outlets including TODAY, CNN Money, Reader’s Digest, KTLA, Medium, Forbes, NY Post, Money Magazine, and Good Day LA as well as numerous industry specific publications. Under Howard’s leadership, Vitamin Angels has twice been named a Top 10 “Highly Rated Charity Relying Solely on Private Contributions” by Charity Navigator in addition to earning nine consecutive 4-star ratings. Vitamin Angels has a Platinum rating from GuideStar.