It is well-known that malnutrition can have devastating consequences on the health and development of children around the world. Many under-resourced countries do not have access to fortified foods. To address the problem of micronutrient malnutrition in children, in the early 1990s, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) challenged a research team led by Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, a leading expert in nutrition at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), to come up with a solution – leading to the development of Sprinkles.
The SickKids-led team developed micronutrient powders (MNP), called Sprinkles, for home-fortification of ready-to-eat foods. MNP were recently added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Model List of Essential Medicines for Children (EMLc) for the prevention of anemia in infants and children.
“We believe that the inclusion of multiple micronutrient powders to the List of Essential Medicines for Children will ultimately lead to wider access to essential vitamins and minerals for children globally,” says Dr. Zlotkin, in a press release. “This could have a significant impact on the prevention of anemia and other micronutrient deficiencies in children.”
Dr. Zlotkin first developed Sprinkles in SickKids’ kitchen in 1998. He is now Chief of the Centre for Global Child Health at SickKids.
Sprinkles, which contain iron and other essential vitamins and minerals, are already being distributed in over 65 countries to around 20 million children annually. Packaged in single-serve sachets resembling sugar packets, the powder can be mixed into food without changing the taste, colour, or texture of the food. Sprinkles are a proven public health intervention designed to allow direct fortification of all types of semi-solid foods for children six to 23 months of age, and up to the age of 12 years at the time of consumption, such as in the home or in schools.
Worldwide, the global prevalence of anemia among preschool children is 43%, or an estimated 273 million children, of which about 42% is attributable to iron deficiency. Anemia in early childhood has been shown to reduce cognitive ability, and cause developmental delays and disability.
The WHO Essential Medicines List is a core guidance document to help countries prioritize medicines that should be widely available and affordable throughout health systems.