On May 15, China celebrated National IDD Prevention Day. This year’s celebration was particularly notable, since it has been 25 years since China established its national IDD elimination program. This year’s theme, chosen by the National Health Commission (NHC), translates as "Sharing a bright and healthy life with iodine"
. The aims of the IDD Day are to improve the public understanding of iodine deficiency disorders, and to increase awareness about the important role that salt iodization plays in its prevention.
Each year, local and regional government authorities across the country organize promotional events, meetings, quizzes, and displays for the general public, schools, and workplaces. They use traditional mass media and social media platforms to expand the public reach and foster conversations with experts, who can answer questions and help to dispel myths about IDD or iodized salt.
Ahead of the 25th IDD Prevention Day on May 15th, the NHC published a document to explain the importance of optimal iodine nutrition on normal brain development, and the crucial role of salt iodization in preventing the loss of I.Q. points. In most parts of China, the natural environment (water, soils, etc.) is almost depleted of iodine, and iodized salt has made it possible to achieve healthy iodine intakes long-term.
The document also addresses some misconceptions about the safety of iodized salt: it confirms that the levels of iodine added to salt are very low and safe, and that fears of it causing adverse health effects, such as thyroid cancer, are unfounded.
The NHC also took advantage of the IDD Prevention Day to announce that new guidelines will soon be published for the use of iodized salt in areas of China where high iodine levels have been found in drinking water. A map of water iodine concentrations will help to identify those regions.
Although iodine intakes in China are currently adequate thanks to a very successful and exemplary nationwide salt iodization program, keeping up the prevention efforts is important to ensure that iodine deficiency does not come back.
Prior to the program, 5–15% of children in iodine-deficient areas in China suffered from mild mental impairment (I.Q. of 50–69 points), and there were many communities where >5% of the population suffered from endemic cretinism (severe mental impairment). Today, continuing the IDD prevention efforts is also part of a broader strategy “Healthy China 2030,” which aims to eliminate preventable diseases and improve population health.
The ongoing commitment to IDD prevention in China is particularly important following the recent revision of the 24-year-old regulation covering iodized salt, which will permit salt producers to provide non-iodized salt to certain population segments. In 2017, China ended a state monopoly on the production and highly controlled sales of table salt, which has led to a larger number of salt producers operating in the country.
The program has been a remarkable success, and while there have been recent changes, ongoing vigilant monitoring and oversight will assure that salt iodization will continue to prevent iodine deficiency and help children thrive.