The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched its first-ever comprehensive framework on reducing anemia calling on countries to accelerate action to halve anemia prevalence in women of reproductive age by 2025.
Anemia remains a serious global public health problem, affecting 571 million women and 269 million young children worldwide, according to data from the organization. The complication, which is most prevalent in low- and middle-income countries affected 40 percent of children between 6 months and 5 years of age, 37 percent of pregnant women, and 30 percent of women 15–49 years of age in 2019.
According to experts, anemia increases the risk of infections and death, impairs cognitive performance, and causes extreme fatigue, poor pregnancy outcomes, loss of earnings, and poor growth and development. It is a strong indicator of overall health.
“Most work on addressing anemia has been focused on the prevention and treatment of iron deficiency,” says Francesco Branca, the Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition and Food Safety. “However, anemia is a complex condition with multiple causes – including other nutritional deficiencies, infections, inflammation, gynecological and obstetric conditions, and inherited red blood cell disorders.” All must be addressed to effectively prevent and treat anemia.
The launched framework sets forth ways to address the direct causes, risk factors, and broad social inequities that are fundamental drivers of anemia. It describes the necessary comprehensive approach that brings together multiple sectors and actors and lays out key action areas to improve the coverage and uptake of interventions.
Acknowledging that health remains the predominant sector for delivering many of the recommended interventions, the framework also proposes actions that other societal stakeholders can take. These include governments, civil society, academia, researchers, funding agencies, international organizations, and media. Each has its particular role to perform in reducing anemia and keeping people healthy, the statement shared along with the framework document says. Iron deficiency is highlighted as the common cause of anemia.