Public Health Experts Recognized for Work in Zinc Deficiency

Public Health Experts Recognized for Work in Zinc Deficiency

Professors Kenneth H. Brown (University of California, Davis), Ananda S. Prasad (Wayne State University), and Robert E. Black (Johns Hopkins University), were recognized with the 2010 Prince Mahidol Award for “outstanding contributions to global public health,” in recognition of their efforts in the identification and control of human zinc deficiency. The awards were presented by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn during a special ceremony held at the Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall in Bangkok, Thailand on the occasion of the Prince Mahidol Award Conference 2011/Second Global Forum on Human Resources for Health.

Zinc micronutrient deficiency is a significant public health issue, causing 800,000 deaths overall and putting at risk more than two billion people due to ailments such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Many of these cases are preventable with a simple zinc supplement. Furthermore, adequate zinc nutrition has been linked to improved cognitive development in children.

Stephen Wilkinson, Executive Director of the International Zinc Association, said:

“Zinc supplements are effective and affordable yet they are underutilized as public health interventions. This inexpensive solution should be recognized by all child health policymakers to put an end to the global crisis of zinc deficiency. IZA has been an active supporter of the International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group (IZiNCG) and Professor Brown’s work since its inception and is pleased by the opportunity this award will provide to promote the importance of adequate zinc nutrition for child health and survival.”

Public awareness of this critical public health issue is increasing:

* Since 2004, IZiNCG, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have recommended zinc supplements for the management of diarrhea. Since then, about 50 governments have changed their child health policies to include zinc for diarrhea management. * Between 2006 and 2008, UNICEF procurement of zinc tablets increased from 20 million to more than 150 million. But this is only a fraction of what is needed to treat affected children worldwide. * In 2008, the Copenhagen Consensus, an independent body of the world’s leading economists — including five Nobel Laureates — consider malnutrition in children as the world’s biggest problem and suggest that the provision of vitamin A and zinc supplements would be the best investment the world could make for improvement. * In September 2009, former President Bill Clinton noted about the zinc supplementation programs that “there is almost no other strategy on earth that could save that many lives for that little money… , [yet] this is something 90 percent of us are unaware of or wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do about it.”

* In 2010, the International Zinc Association launched the Zinc Saves Kids initiative committing US$3 million to improve the survival, growth and development of undernourished children by funding UNICEF’s zinc supplementation programs.

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