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May 7, 2018

Are Our Kids Getting Enough Iodine and Salt?

The Ministry of Health is undertaking a two week survey to measure and report on the levels of iodine in children in Belize. Four hundred school children between the ages of six to twelve from four primary schools in Belize, Stann Creek and Corozal districts will participate in the study. The study which starts this week at two primary schools in the Belize district will measure the students’ height, weight and head circumference will be measured and bodily fluid samples will be taken to be tested in a lab. The study will be carried out next week at the other two out-district schools. The study called the Caribbean Regional Urinary Iodine and Sodium Study 2018 is being done in partnership with PAHO, UNICEF and the Iodine Global Network across eight other Caribbean countries. Professor Michael Zimmermann, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland will be leading the exercise in Belize. He explains why the survey is important.


Michael Zimmermann

Michael Zimmermann, Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

“The reason that we are interested in trying to determine how much iodine school children are eating in Belize is because iodine is the critical micro nutrient that supports brain development; so that if a child has deficient iodine intakes from the diet, their IQ is decreased and they will perform less well in school, so it is really a critical micronutrient for school learning. So, what we are going to do is to try and measure how much iodine children in Belize are eating in order to determine whether they are getting enough. To do that, we collect a small urine sample from each child and we measure the amount of iodine in the urine sample and that is the recommended way of determining how much iodine a child has been eating over the last couple of days.”


Andrea Polanco

“Once you’ve collected the sample, analyzed it and get the results, what would be recommended after, if we see that majority of the students do not have the required level of iodine intake?”


Michael Zimmermann

“Right. So the whole point of doing this survey is to provide good information or data on which to base policy or programs. If we do find that children in Belize are iodine deficient, then the Ministry of Health will devise a program by which iodine intakes are increased into the normal range. To do that, they might, for example, recommend that families choose only iodized salt in their households because iodized salt is a very good source of iodine for children. Or, if the deficiency was very severe, maybe they would recommend some kind of iodine supplementation. So, it would depend a little bit on the severity of the deficiency, if we find deficiency. But what will most likely happen will be more emphasis placed on a public campaign to encourage consumption of iodized salt as compared to non-iodized salt.”

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