Peru and other Andean countries
Improving iodine nutrition in the Andean countries
Five Latin American countries were declared free of iodine deficiency more than two decades ago, but this achievement has not been maintained and disparities in access to iodized salt were recently noted, especially among vulnerable populations. Lack of government support and funding, inadequate laws and regulations, and a lack of understanding about the importance of iodine nutrition have contributed to less access to iodized salt.
Identifying paths to progress
IGN initiated a study in five of the seven Andean countries to understand current perceptions of iodine deficiency and to develop a communication plan to address them.
The study found that knowledge about the importance of iodine nutrition has decreased over time, and that the general population is unaware of the impact of iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) on pregnant women and children. Among decision makers and even health personnel, there is a perception that salt iodization is an outdated issue and not a major concern, particularly in the face of other priorities such as the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to decreased funding for IDD programs and a weakening of communications and monitoring efforts. In parallel, countries are working to reduce salt intake for health reasons, so communicating around the prevention of iodine deficiency through salt iodization needs to dovetail with new messaging around reduced salt consumption.
Less salt, but iodized salt
The program aims to increase awareness about the importance of iodine nutrition and promote the consumption of iodized salt to prevent iodine deficiency disorders.
Working with the authorities in Cusco, Peru, IGN is expanding information to the public on the importance of iodine in health, particularly to pregnant women, infants and caregivers of young children in targeted and remote areas, highlighting the benefits and consequences on health from IDD. Also, supporting the efforts for dialogue and commitments related to universal iodization and consumption of iodized salt by those who make decisions in production, regulation, and marketing.
To address the lack of understanding about the importance of iodine nutrition and government support and funding, the team’s communication strategy involved integrating the promotion of the moderate consumption of salt with the consumption of iodized salt, creating a unifying motto ‘Less Salt, but Iodized Salt: The Salt of Life’.