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TIME Examines How Zinc Supplements May Help Save Children Worldwide

TIME examines the “quiet revolution [now] under way” to treat diarrhea using zinc supplements.  The magazine reports that globally the disease “kills an astonishing 1.6 million children under 5 every year,” according to the WHO.

In recent years, “a handful of aid organizations and governments,” which include USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “have begun distributing zinc supplements to villagers in Bangladesh, India, Mali and Pakistan. Several other groups are working with governments in Africa to introduce zinc, which comes both in tablet form and as a syrup,” Time reports.

“So far, the small programs have drawn little attention. But their impact has been dramatic,” the magazine writes. Compared to oral-rehydration therapy (ORT), “which is extremely effective in replacing fluids and nutrients but offers no quick end to the diarrhea itself … [z]inc pills appear to halt diarrhea in its tracks.” In parts of the world, children with diarrhea can now be treated with zinc supplements and ORT for as little as 30 cents.

The article includes information on why researchers theorize the zinc supplements are helping to stop diarrhea, the benefits of ORT-zinc combination therapies and examines how zinc-treatment programs are focusing attention on a disease that “has been ignored for decades” (Walt, 8/17).

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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.