Iodine Deficiency To Be Eliminated Worldwide By 2005.
International Partnership will meet UN goal.

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(A news conference will be held at 2:30 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, May 8th in Room 226, United Nations, to discuss the launch of the Network for the Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency. Speaking will be international chess champion Anatoly Karpov, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the CEE/CIS region on iodine deficiency; Walter Becky, of Morton Salt, representing the North American Salt Institute; Robert Moore of Kiwanis International; and Venkatesh Mannar, of the Micronutrient Initiative.)

Individual interviews are also available. To schedule an interview, please contact: Marshall Hoffman 703-801-8602, Ian Larsen 703-929-2099 or Nils Hoffman 703-820-2244 [/sws_white_box]

Iodine deficiency, the single most important cause of preventable mental and developmental disabilities, will be virtually eliminated worldwide within three years as the result of a unique international partnership of UN agencies, civil society organizations and industry that is iodizing salt worldwide.

Today, at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, the creation of the Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency was announced. The Network, a unique partnership of public, private and UN agencies has committed itself to supporting the fulfillment of the General Assembly’s goal of achieving sustainable elimination of iodine deficiency disorders by the year 2005.

“From start to finish, the global effort to eliminate iodine deficiency by Universal Salt Iodization will have taken only fifteen years to achieve, making it one of the most effective international public health campaigns in history,” said Werner Schultink of UNICEF, Network Chair. “The elimination of iodine deficiency has been compared to smallpox eradication in terms of its public health benefits, and it could only have been possible with the help of the diverse group of stakeholders that targeted it.”

Iodine deficiency is especially devastating for pregnant women and their children, causing miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. Neuromuscular, speech and hearing abnormalities are common among children born to iodine-deficient mothers.

Since 1990, the percentage of households consuming iodized salt in developing nations has risen from 20% to 70%. As a result, 91 million newborn children around the world are now protected from a significant loss of learning ability every year.

Where it is prevalent, iodine deficiency can lower the average intelligence quotient (IQ) of a population by as much as 13 points, with serious implications for the human and economic development of entire nations. Average IQ rates range between 90 and 110, so that a 10-15 point average drop can be devastating.

While extreme cases of iodine deficiency can cause profound medical conditions to an individual, such as cretinism and goiter, it is the mild reductions in developmental capacity across an entire population that limit economic and social development.

“By eliminating iodine deficiency, we are protecting newborns and children from brain damage and therefore contributing to breaking the cycle of poverty,” says Professor Jack Ling, Chair of the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders.

Salt iodization is a remarkably cost effective public health goal. On average, the one-time increase in cost is only 3-5 cents per person per year, a price so low that even consumers in least developed countries would barely notice it. In areas where consumers cannot pay even that small additional cost, governments, aid agencies or foundations can easily underwrite it. Salt producers themselves have been enthusiastic partners in the entire process. Total investment from salt companies has already totaled $1.5 billion.

The new Network consists of UNICEF, the Micronutrient Initiative, the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, Kiwanis International, World Health Organization, European Salt Producers’ Association, Salt Institute, China Salt Industry Association, US Centers for Disease Control, and Emory University School of Public Health. The network will support national efforts to eliminate iodine deficiency by promoting collaboration among public, private and civic organizations on the issue.

According to the World Bank’s Disability Adjusted Life Years indicator (DALY), or years lived without disabilities or impairment, salt iodization is near the top of the list in effective defenses for health promotion, with breast feeding, Vitamin A fortification and food supplements for children also ranking high.

“Almost everyone in the world consumes salt, regardless of culture, religion or socioeconomic status,” says Venkatesh Mannar, President of the Micronutrient Initiative. “The combination of its universal use and the relative ease of fortifying it make salt an excellent vehicle for providing essential nutrients to large populations.”

Even some of the most populous and the poorest nations have been able to meet the goal of universal salt iodization to the great benefit of their people. China is one of the great success stories in salt iodization, having gone from 50 percent coverage just ten years ago to more than 95 percent coverage today.

The international community should be taking the iodine partnership’s model and looking for other areas where it will be effective. “Take the case of the world’s salt manufacturers. Working with the United Nations, they have made sure that all salt manufactured for human consumption contains iodine,” said Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General in his address to the World Economic Forum. The economic cost-benefit ratio of salt iodization is tremendous, and the public health results speak for themselves.

“The key, however, is that no sector can act alone,” says Werner Schultink of UNICEF. “Governments, international organizations, civil society groups and industry must work together if we are again to see the kind of success that salt iodization has brought.”

Public-private partnerships are a crucial factor in overcoming micronutrient deficiencies. Governments have effected national legislative frameworks, working with the private sector to achieve coverage quickly and effectively. International agencies, donors and technical experts have worked together to identify technical, cost-effective and sustainable solutions that can be implemented to achieve high levels of coverage.

Donor governments from Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United States, Belgium and Australia have played coordinated roles providing financial support, effecting change at national levels and providing technical support. UNICEF has played a vital coordinating role.

“Kiwanis decided to raise $75 million to virtually eliminate iodine deficiency” says Mr. Bo Shafer of Kiwanis International. “Our world now is one community. We’re trying to help our community around the world”

“Salt producers in developed nations have been iodizing their salt for many years and recognize the importance of universal salt iodization and would like to assist this global effort,” says Walter Becky of Morton Salt. “Morton Salt started selling iodized salt in 1924, recognizing the enormous health benefits it would bring to the U.S. population. This important step created tremendous trust with consumers of our salt products, but the real benefit is in the knowledge that we are important participants in improving global public health.”

As shown by major progress in even the poorest regions, universal salt iodization is a feasible goal that should be pursued vigorously. Iodine deficiency should be eliminated by 2005.

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The Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency

In May 2000, at the World Salt Symposium (“Salt 2000”) in The Hague, The Netherlands, executives of the salt industry met with leaders of governments and NGOs and directors of international organizations to look at how they could better collaborate to accelerate global progress towards ending iodine deficiency forever. An agreement was reached to form the Network for Sustained Elimination of Iodine Deficiency, a collaborative coalition of public, private, international and civic organizations.

The Network’s mandate is to support national efforts to eliminate iodine deficiency — and to sustain elimination – by promoting collaboration among public, private and civic organizations. These partner organizations are committed to ensuring that universal salt iodization is sustained in all countries, and that recurrence of brain damage from iodine deficiency will be prevented. The Network is unique in bringing together such a broad range of partners — especially the salt industry.

Category: Press Release