Early Childhood Development and Vitamin A Supplements

Here at Networklearning we are asking you to think about Childhood Development following a recent issue on the subject in the Lancet (ref. 1). One aspect is the use of Vitamin A.

An article in the BMJ (ref. 2) describes an analysis of previous trials of Vitamin A supplementation – it looks at 43 trials in 18 countries involving over two hundred thousand children. The results makes a strong case for supplementing with Vitamin A. Programmes using the quantities recommended by WHO had a 24% reduction of mortality from all causes, a reduction of  cases and deaths from diarrhoea, a reduction of cases of measles and subsequent blindness and of night blindness.

The authors suggest that governments could promote foods high in Vitamin A, such as mangos and orange sweet potato. Authorities could fortify common foodstuffs such as oil and and rice; they could do more to promote supplementation for the under-fives, using strategies linked to Child Health Days and the use of Community Health Workers.

One colleague wrote to us, “In the 1970s I happily gave vitamin A to the children of Bhola Island in Bangladesh, thinking that it might prevent keratomalacia. It made my day reading this study; it is not often that something does more good than you expected”.

The Lancet: Child Development in Developing Countries 2

Mayo-Wilson et al: Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis

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