There are a number of public health strategies to reduce the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies including:
Dietary diversification includes the promotion of a diet with a wider variety of foods that contain large quantities of micronutrients. This intervention is often not adequate to control micronutrient deficiencies among the poorest populations of the developing world due to the limited access to foods rich in bioavailable micronutrients such as meat and fish.
Supplementation using preparations such as syrups and crushable tablets, is one way to reach infants and young children in families that can’t afford expensive iron-containing or fortified foods. Challenges with supplementation however include sustainability, compliance and reaching those that are most vulnerable.
The fortification of staple foods such as wheat or other grains is likely to increase
micronutrient intake for those populations that have access to them. However, infants and
children who have a limited capacity to eat large quantities of fortified foods are not likely
to benefit significantly from this strategy.
Alternatively, targeted fortification (for example, the fortification of complementary foods such as commercially manufactured infant cereals) as is practiced in the developed world, is an excellent way to increase the intake of micronutrients among infants and young children, especially iron. This form of fortification is largely responsible for the low rates of vitamin and mineral deficiencies observed in industrialized countries.
Fortified commercially prepared infant foods are relatively expensive and may not be affordable
for many families with children at highest risk of micronutrient deficiencies. The Sprinkles Global Health
Initiative uses the home fortification concept to provide vulnerable populations with a vitamin and mineral preparation that
can be easily added directly to foods prepared in the home. This concept enables families to ‘fortify’ their
own foods at an appropriate and safe level with the needed micronutrients. The challenge for home
fortification has been to develop a product that is effective, available, accessible and acceptable in
a number of diverse cultural and country settings as a public health strategy.