The 'screen and treat with iron-folic acid' approach is efficacious in reducing prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age, and significant treatment effects persist for a period of one year, found a study by the ICMR's National Institute of Nutrition.
Anaemia remains a public health problem in India, particularly among women, Dr Raghu Pullakhandham, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and lead investigator of the study, told PTI.
"The population approach to anaemia has been prophylactic iron-folic acid (IFA) supplementation since the last four decades, yet, the prevalence of anaemia has remained stubbornly above 50 per cent among Indian women," Pullakhandham said.
In an attempt to strengthen anaemia control, the government recently launched the 'Anemia Mukt Bharat (AMB)' programme, which, in addition to the existing prophylactic IFA supplementation for women of reproductive age, advocated an additional screening for blood hemoglobin levels and treatment with IFA tablets.
This approach was evaluated by ICMR-NIN, Hyderabad, among 470 women of 17-21 years in age.
Screening for hemoglobin followed by treatment with IFA for 90 days reduced the prevalence of anaemia by 40 per cent -- reduced from 70 to 30 per cent -- and improved the body iron stores as estimated by serum ferritin, an iron storage protein, Pullakhandham stated.
When the same women are followed up again in one year time, there is a small decline in hemoglobin levels (by 0.5g/dL) and an increase in anaemia prevalence (by 10 per cent), which is still lower compared to anaemia at the start of the study (70 per cent), he explained.
"This study, therefore, demonstrates that screening followed by IFA supplementation as suggested by 'Anemia Mukt Bharat' guidelines is efficacious in reducing the prevalence of anaemia among WRA, and significant treatment effects persist for a period of one year," he said.