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Aug 8, 2013

Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, What do you know about micronutrients?

Jorge Rosenthal

The results of a recent survey of close to two thousand women and children show that women of reproductive age are deficient in Folic Acid and there is a low level of Vitamin B-twelve intake. The Ministry of Health, back in 2008, decided to conduct a micro-nutrients baseline survey to measure the impact of nutritional interventions. The survey was carried out until 2011-2012 in collaboration with UNICEF, PAHO, World Food Program and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as part of a Central American initiative on the prevention of micro-nutrient deficiencies. It objectives were to determine deficiencies among women ages fifteen to forty-nine and children six months to five years old.  If you are wondering how Belize stands in comparison with the other Central American countries, well, the results are described as a public health concern because there is widespread deficiencies in folic acid and vitamin B-twelve.

 

Jorge Rosenthal, Epidemiologist, Center for Disease Control Prevention, Atlanta

“We have been providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health in Belize. I think it is very important for Belize because it establishes baseline information of micro-nutrients for non pregnant of child-bearing years and kids six to fifty-nine months of age. With the results of this survey, we have found that there are several issues. You have some successes and problems. I will start with successes. For example, Vitamin A deficiency is very low across the board the groups that we talked—the women and the children. The country has been very successful. However, there are still some small percentage below two percent of the women and one percent of the children who are still deficient. If you really want to reach elimination of Vitamin A deficiency then you will need to target those groups. In regard to micro-nutrients, I will be specific. Anemia is still a wide problem across the nation among children and women—it is around twenty-two percent.  However, there is some good news about it. Although it is a moderate public health problem, the major proportion of cases are due to mild anemia. Mild anemia has a better chance to be tackled than moderate or severe anemia. So depending on the type of interventions that the country decides to do based on this information like fortification, the country really could diminish or reduce the prevalence of anemia.”

 

Natalia Lagaspada

Natalia Lagaspada, Maternal & Child Health Technical Advisor, Ministry of Health

“We do have deficiencies in micro-nutrients so the solution cannot be for one region or the other. It has to be countrywide, but definitely we have to boost nutrition interventions in southern and western region and we are recommending the Rice for Education as a good vehicle for carrying these micro-nutrients where everyone can have access and especially for those that are in greater need.”

 

In some countries like Costa Rica, there is mandatory fortification of different staples. The result has been a decrease in the prevalence of anemia which also has an impact on infant mortality and prematurity.

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