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Indian J Med Res. 2018 Nov;148(5):496-502. doi: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_1781_18.

National control programme against nutritional blindness due to vitamin A deficiency: Current status & future strategy.

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1
National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India.

Abstract

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) among 1-5 yr old children is reported to be widely prevalent in Southeast Asia and some parts of Africa. It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in young children in the low-income countries in the world. Children even with milder signs of VAD have higher risk of morbidity and mortality. Inadequate dietary intakes of vitamin A with poor bioavailability associated with frequent infections are the primary contributory factors. Currently available approaches to control VAD are ensuring adequate intakes of vitamin A in daily diets, fortification of foods consumed regularly particularly among the low-income communities and periodic administration of massive dose of vitamin A supported by public health interventions and reinforced by behaviour change communication. Under the National Programme in India, six monthly administration of mega dose of vitamin A to 6-59 month old children has been implemented since 1970, to prevent particularly blindness due to VAD and control hypovitaminosis A. Despite inadequate coverage and poor implementation of the programme, blindness due to VAD in children has almost disappeared, though subclinical VAD is still widely prevalent. Based on the results of meta-analysis of eight trials, which indicated that vitamin A supplementation to children aged 6-59 months reduced child mortality rates by about 23 per cent, the World Health Organization made a strong recommendation that in areas with VAD as a public health problem, vitamin A supplementation should be given to infants and children of 6-59 months of age as a public health intervention to reduce child morbidity and improve child survival. At present, in India, there is a need for change in policy with respect to the national programme to opt for targeted instead of universal distribution. However, NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog, which formulates policies and provides technical support to the Government of India, recommends strengthening of the National Programme for control of VAD through six monthly vitamin A supplementation along with health interventions. Eventually, the goal is to implement food based and horticulture-based interventions harmonizing with public health measures, food fortification and capacity building of functionaries for elimination of VAD.

KEYWORDS:

Biannual distribution; National Vitamin A Programme; child mortality; child survival; mega-dose vitamin A; targeted distribution; universal distribution; vitamin A supplementation

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