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Distribution Infrastructure, Effective Education Important For Success Of Micronutrient Powders To Treat Childhood Anemia

In this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog, journalist Sam Loewenberg examines the administration of micronutrient powders as a treatment option for anemia, “one of the most pervasive problems affecting the world’s children, and one that goes largely unaddressed.” “The presence of anemia usually signifies a host of other micronutrient deficiencies that are more difficult to test for,” so micronutrient powders — such as Sprinkles, the original and most common formulation — “contain not just iron, but 15 essential vitamins and minerals, including iodine, zinc and vitamin A,” he writes. “The Copenhagen Consensus, a group of expert economists convened in 2008 to determine the world’s most effective aid interventions, put micronutrient supplements at the top of the list,” he continues, adding, “According to their estimate, the cost of providing vitamin A and zinc to 80 percent of the world’s 140 million children who are lacking them would cost $60 million per year. The benefits of this treatment would be worth more than $1 billion.”

“But micronutrient powders … are being distributed at a national level in just a smattering of countries: Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic,” he continues. He notes “UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have run pilot projects to show national governments that Sprinkles can be effective and that there is a demand for the supplement.” However, “[p]ersuading governments to take up the project presents an array of challenges,” he writes, and provides examples. “It is one thing to invent a great new tool, it is quite another to get people to use it,” he continues, concluding, “With poverty comes inefficient government and a lack of basic infrastructure, which gets to the real problem of most global health interventions: how to get assistance to people in a sustainable, efficient way, and make sure it is used correctly” (9/5).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.