Kiwanis grant furthers fight against iodine deficiency

Erin Chandler | Jan 30, 2023
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Kiwanis International is proud to continue its work to combat iodine deficiency around the world with a US$30,000 grant to the Iodine Global Network (IGN) from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund. The grant will help fund a report summarizing iodine status and iodine deficiency prevention data across Europe, drawing attention to the need for improved strategies to deal with iodine deficiency in that region. 

According to IGN, iodine deficiency is one of the world’s leading causes of preventable intellectual and developmental disabilities. It also increases the risk of thyroid disease and can negatively affect fetal health and development. Fortunately, we know how these effects can be prevented: through the adequate consumption of iodized salt. 

Kiwanis became involved in the fight against iodine deficiency through a campaign with UNICEF that lasted from 1994 to 2005. In that time, Kiwanians raised over US$105 million for salt iodization, testing and monitoring, and community outreach and education in more than 89 nations. As a result, 88% of the world’s households have access to iodized salt, and hundreds of millions of children have escaped the effects of iodine deficiency. 

There is still work to be done, however. The only way to truly eradicate iodine deficiency is to sustain salt iodization in the food people eat. In 2020, a Children’s Fund grant went toward furthering the fight against iodine deficiency in Myanmar and Morocco. Now it’s Europe’s turn. 

IGN has found that, while salt iodization regulations exist in most European countries, they are not sufficient to ensure the health of all population groups — and lawmakers are not prioritizing the issue due to a lack of awareness and understanding.  

This new report, with help from a Kiwanis Children’s Fund grant, will shine a light on the importance of rethinking salt iodization strategies.  

Kiwanis Executive Director Stan Soderstrom, who sits on the IGN board of directors, says the significance of the report cannot be understated: “Data indicates that as many as half of the infants born in Europe today are born iodine deficient. Nations like Norway, Finland, Germany and the Baltic states have alarmingly high levels of iodine deficiency as well. What this means is that there has been a reversal of the work that Kiwanis funded from 1994 to 2005, providing access to iodized household table salt. By funding this report, Kiwanis is helping to ensure that 28 governments across Europe will be able to see this negative trend, and hopefully create a platform for action within Europe.” 

The report, produced by IGN in partnership with the World Health Organization and ETH Zürich, will focus its research on school-age children, pregnant people and people of reproductive age, and the previously overlooked demographics of adolescents and young adults. It will particularly evaluate the consequences of persistent mild and moderate iodine deficiency, which are the types most often seen in Europe. IGN hopes that those who set laws and policies will come to see that even mild iodine deficiency is a serious health concern. 

”The publication of this report will draw the attention of policymakers to the issue of iodine deficiency in Europe,” said IGN Executive Director Werner Schultink.  “The support of the Kiwanis Children’s Fund for this important publication has the potential to drive new commitment to protect Europe’s children from iodine deficiency, and IGN is proud to work with Kiwanis on this important issue.” 


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