Meeting the challenges of micronutrient malnutrition in the developing world

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: Malnutrition still remains one of the major public health challenges, particularly in developing countries. Major risk factors for undernutrition such as suboptimal breastfeeding and micronutrient deficiencies (vitamin A and zinc) are responsible for more than one-third of all under five child deaths and 11% of the global total disease burden.SOURCES OF DATA: Several strategies have been employed to supplement micronutrients. These include education, dietary modification, food provision, supplementation and fortification either alone or in combination.AREAS OF AGREEMENT: Supplementation is the most widely practiced intervention while fortification can also be a potentially cost-effective public health intervention and target a larger population through a single strategy. Universal coverage with the full bundle of interventions including micronutrient provision, complementary foods, treatments for worms and diarrheal diseases and behavior change programs package could be the way forward in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).AREAS OF CONTROVERSY: Bio-fortification and agricultural interventions including home and school gardening are relatively newer strategies and require further research as they have the potential to impact nutritional status of populations at large.GROWING POINTS: Effectiveness of the various interventions is well recognized; however, consensus needs to be built around approaches to scale up coverage and delivery strategies to reduce disparities and provide equitable access.AREAS TIMELY FOR DEVELOPING RESEARCH: Future studies should focus on evaluating various approaches to address malnutrition with a standard methodology and defined outcomes. This will help gauge the actual morbidity and mortality impacts of these specific interventions and the long-term viability of these programs. On a broader scale, strategies to address food insecurity and poverty alleviation are the key as these are complex sustainable development issues, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment and trade.


British Medical Bulletin