Revista panamericana de salud publica = Pan American journal of public health

Need for coordinated programs to improve global health by optimizing salt and iodine intake.

PMID 23299289


High dietary salt is a major cause of increased blood pressure, the leading risk for death worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that salt intake be less than 5 g/day, a goal that only a small proportion of people achieve. Iodine deficiency can cause cognitive and motor impairment and, if severe, hypothyroidism with serious mental and growth retardation. More than 2 billion people worldwide are at risk of iodine deficiency. Preventing iodine deficiency by using salt fortified with iodine is a major global public health success. Programs to reduce dietary salt are technically compatible with programs to prevent iodine deficiency through salt fortification. However, for populations to fully benefit from optimum intake of salt and iodine, the programs must be integrated. This review summarizes the scientific basis for salt reduction and iodine fortification programs, the compatibility of the programs, and the steps that need to be taken by the WHO, national governments, and nongovernmental organizations to ensure that populations fully benefit from optimal intake of salt and iodine. Specifically, expert groups must be convened to help countries implement integrated programs and context-specific case studies of successfully integrated programs; lessons learned need to be compiled and disseminated. Integrated surveillance programs will be more efficient and will enhance current efforts to optimize intake of iodine and salt. For populations to fully benefit, governments need to place a high priority on integrating these two important public health programs.