In October, the Iodine Global Network held a Regional Workshop on “Achieving universal salt iodization for optimal iodine nutrition” in Bangkok, Thailand. The three-day event was organized jointly with our partners: UNICEF, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and Micronutrient Initiative (MI)
, and in collaboration with the Thai Ministry of Public Heath.
The workshop was attended by representatives of 11 countries across the East Asia & Pacific (EAP) Region: China, DPR Korea, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Timor Leste, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
There has been significant progress towards the elimination of iodine deficiency as a public health problem in the Region over the past decade. By iodizing salt and ensuring that over 90% of the population has access to adequate dietary iodine, many countries have successfully improved the iodine status at the national level.
East Asia & Pacific has the highest regional coverage of iodized salt of any of the UNICEF regions (91%), largely thanks to China, where coverage is 97%. In some countries, however, iodized salt coverage is significantly lower: in 7 countries it is below 50%.
The workshop offered the first of its kind opportunity for the EAP countries to share their experiences, identify the barriers that prevent long-term effectiveness of their IDD elimination programs, and learn how to reinvigorate them to ensure they continue serving future generations.
Speaking about the experience of the host country, Prof. Rachata Rachatanavin (former Minister of Health and member of the National Committee for IDD Control) attributed Thailand's successful elimination of IDD to its strong national program, which has adapted and evolved in response to the changing needs of the population and changing guidelines.
Through a series of presentations, panel discussions, and group work, the three-day workshop offered the delegates and organizers a forum to discuss some of the key elements of successful IDD prevention: legislation, national coordination and implementation, production of adequately iodized salt, regulatory monitoring, and evaluation and surveillance.
One of the key messages emerging from the Workshop was that salt remains the main vehicle for iodine delivery even as consumption patterns change and a growing proportion of dietary salt comes from processed foods (including salty condiments). We must take account of all sources of iodized salt when we estimate coverage and population iodine status.
On the final day, the attendees renewed their commitment to sustainable elimination of IDD in their countries and listed some of the next steps which they will take towards this goal when they go back home.