Abaseen Foundation (often working in collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire) has conducted numerous research projects, concentrating mainly around the area of health and nutrition. The results of this research have influenced how the lives of people in this area can be improved, with important implications for other areas of Pakistan and other developing countries.

Abaseen Foundation has a strong commitment to embedding research, wherever possible, within its activities. Our guiding principle is that all the research we undertake must be in response to the needs identified by the local communities, through the Jirga. We endeavour to engage with community members throughout the research process to provide valued input into the design, management and delivery of our projects.

Research is important for a number of reasons.  Research provides
• data to help us evaluate the impact of our activities
• an opportunity for capacity building and providing training for our staff employed on the projects
• an opportunity to disseminate through academic publications what we have learned through our projects that may benefit others working in similar environments
• strengthened connections with local academic institutions and hospitals, such as Khyber Medical University and Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar

Since 2007, Abaseen Foundation has undertaken several research projects in collaboration with researchers based in both UK and Pakistan universities and hospitals, including the University of Central Lancashire, Nottingham University, Khyber Medical University, University of Northumbria, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Preston Royal Hospital and Lady Reading Hopsital. We have also collaborated with researchers in the USA at Johns Hopkins University and the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

Our major project currently (2019) is the BIZIFED project, which is conducting crucial research (based at UCLAN) into the use of bio-fortified wheat to improve brain development in undernourished children.

Examples of our Research Projects:

1. Comparative studies of diet and bone health in South Asian women in the UK and Pakistan.
This was the first collaborative research study that we conducted between Abaseen Foundation and UCLan, and was based at Nahaqi Hospital.  The research was designed to examine the relationship between diet, vitamin D status, and bone health in postmenopausal women living in the community served by the Nahaqi Hospital, compared to women of Pakistani origin living in Blackburn, UK.

2. Barriers to optimal nutrition for women and infants
According to UNICEF, in Pakistan each year around 25,000 women die due to complications in pregnancy or child birth, and at least 300,000 infants die in their first year of life. The reasons for this are many and complex and include malnutrition among women of reproductive ages. We undertook a project to explore the barriers to optimal nutrition for women and their infants living near the Nahaqi hospital, and sought their opinions on the potential solutions.

As a result of this, we established a Nutritional Support Unit at the Nahaqi hospital where infants are weighed, and those who are malnourished are identified and supplements provided for infant and mother. We also provided basic health and nutrition education for women with infants to make the best use of locally available and affordable foods such as lentils and buffalo milk.

Lentils and buffalo milk typically prepared outdoors

3. Iodised salt promotion
Pakistan’s Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme (IDDCP) was launched in 1994. Approximately half of Pakistan’s population of 200 million are affected with iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). The National Nutrition Survey in Pakistan revealed marked provincial variations, and within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) 25.7% of children 6-12 years of age were found to have some form of IDD.
We conducted a survey of 1000 households on the brick kilns close to Peshawar  to assess the awareness of the benefits of consuming iodised salt and found that only 2.6% households reported use of iodised salt and only 3.5% knew about the health benefits.

With the help of the Jirga and Imams, we conducted a successful  education and awareness campaign to promote iodised salt use in the brick kiln community, including putting posters up around the community, distributing leaflets, and door to door visits.

An unexpected finding of this research was that the quality of the iodised salt was not up to the government standards, and this was highlighted in our study report.

4. Benefits of school lunch on cognitive function
When Abaseen Foundation introduced its school lunch programme at the Noor Model School and Mian Gul School, we had an opportunity to monitor the impact of providing a school lunch on the cognitive performance of the children attending the school. Using a simple paper based test, we monitored the children over a 12 month period. A local government school where no meals were provided served as the control. Our study showed that providing one meal a day to malnourished primary school age children does improve cognitive function in the lowest quartile of performance.

5. Biofortified Wheat to Alleviate Zinc Deficiency (BIZIFED) project
The National Survey shows that 40% of the population in Pakistan are zinc deficient.  This affects growth, immune function and cognitive development in children.

We are currently working with partners in the UK and in PK to examine the effectiveness of consuming flour made with zinc-biofortified wheat on the zinc status of the consumers.  This project is underway and you can follow our progress by accessing our BIZIFED blog at: https://uclanhealthwellbeing.wordpress.com

High zinc wheat grain ready to be transported from the farms in Punjab to our project site on the brick kilns near Peshawar