ISLAMABAD: Health experts on Thursday said that approximately two million children annually are born mentally deficient in the country due to iodine deficiency among the pregnant women.
They were addressing the participants of media advisory training workshop on universal salt iodization here, organized by The Network for Consumer Protection.
They said that Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDDs) is a major health problem in Pakistan as more than half of the country’s population stands at the risk of developing IDDs.
Health expert Dr Maria Ahmed Qureshi from The Network said that data indicates that iodine deficiency has a direct effect on several health, economic and other indicators impacting negatively on achieving the MDGs especially 1,2,4 and 5 to which Pakistan is a signatory.
She said that almost half of newborn in Pakistan are mentally weak due to iodine deficiency in mothers. She added iodine deficiency is the world’s leading preventable cause of mental retardation, with over one-third of the global population at risk due to a lack of naturally available iodine in the soil.
She said IDD occurs when people do not receive iodine in their diets on a regular basis and it can be easily corrected by adding iodine to salt. She said that IDD affects individual intelligence and can lower the IQ of a population by as much as 15 points.
Dr Maria said that the problem of iodine deficiency is especially serious for pregnant women and young children. She added during pregnancy, even milder deficiencies can retard fetal development and result in physical and mental retardation.
She said other effects of IDD included goiter, abnormal physical development, reproductive loss, and severe mental and physical retardation and an irreversible condition known as cretinism.
Project Coordinator The Network Rubina Bhatti said that fortunately IDDs can be prevented through the introduction of relatively simple and inexpensive methods like iodized salt.
There has been significant rise in consumer demand but lack of quality control measures and absence of legislation are among the major important factors leading to low production and consumption of iodized salt.
She added it is a high time to effectively implement Universal Salt lodization (USI) which is the quickest and cheapest strategy to address this problem.
CEO, The Network, Nadeem Iqbal said that all iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) can be prevented with just one teaspoon of iodine consumed in tiny amounts on a regular basis over a lifetime at a very little cost.
He said that the objective of this training was to sensitize media persons regarding iodine deficiency disorders and importance of iodized salt consumption so that they proactively advocate for the consumption of iodized salt.
He expressed the hope that the training workshop will enhance capacity of the media persons on this particular health related issue, who can sensitize general public on the consequences of iodine deficiencies and its disorders through print and electronic media.
Senior journalist, Sarwar Munir Rao said that media can play a vital and positive role in creating demand for iodized salt among people.
He urged media persons to sensitize general public on the consequences of iodine deficiencies and its disorders becoming the active advocates of iodized salt usage.
Senior broadcaster, Tauseeq Haider said that apart from covering political issues, media persons should also focus on the health issues too in their news stories.
He said regular sensitization by the health journalists will help increasing awareness of the general population and also gain political commitment in promotion of iodized salt usage to prevent iodine deficiency disorders.