November 2023

Enhancing approaches to nutrition programming

The Iodine Global Network (IGN) is pleased to announce a significant investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for our work to improve data and knowledge of iodine status, strengthen national universal salt iodization (USI) programs, provide guidance on the use of iodized salt in processed foods, and review the fortification of salt with multiple micronutrients.

“For over three decades, iodine programming has made significant strides, but assessing sustained progress has become increasingly challenging due to lack of new data, hindering our ability to identify vulnerable populations and ultimately compromising the effectiveness of iodine programs. This grant will allow IGN to identify and mitigate risks, develop essential tools, and maintain the momentum of successful programs. Also, this grant will explore the potential for addressing other micronutrient deficiencies through salt fortification, enhancing the approach to nutrition programming”, said IGN Executive Director Werner Schultink.

Over an 18-month period, the grant will focus on four areas of work:

  • Enhancing data and knowledge of iodine status: IGN aims to stimulate the generation of more timely and comprehensive estimates of iodine status at national and sub-national levels. Available data sets will be analyzed in more depth, options to combine with other ongoing surveys explored, and a cost-effective tool using sentinel sites to assess and monitor the iodine status of vulnerable population groups will be created.
  • Strengthening national USI programs: IGN, in collaboration with partners, will explore the use of a customized iodine program performance assessment tool for program managers to help them to preserve and improve sustainable and equitable iodine nutrition programs.
  • Improving guidance on iodized salt in processed foods: IGN aims to understand the strategic use of iodized salt in processed foods to address coverage gaps in iodine nutrition. The work will involve an extensive review of available data from all processed food studies on the use of key salt-containing processed foods, aimed at improving guidance to national food fortification programs.
  • Exploring double or multiple fortification in salt: IGN will conduct a review of developments in  the use of salt as a vehicle for fortification beyond iodine, informing governments, industry and organizations about its potential impact, required investments and limitations, leading to the convening of a high-level multi-stakeholder meeting beyond the grant period.

IGN will collaborate with organizations such as UNICEF, Nutrition International (NI), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the Micronutrient Forum (MNF), as well as with Government agencies and salt producers for the implementation of these areas of work.