Micronutrient deficiencies represent a major, “hidden” form of malnutrition that affects hundreds of millions of young children and women in the developing world. The ability of research in recent decades to reveal the health and survival impact of several individual deficiencies, notably those of vitamin A, zinc, iodine and iron, and to influence prevention policy has stimulated a rising tide of research addressing the public health impact of preventing both single and multiple micronutrient deficiencies during early childhood and among women during pregnancy and lactation. This first meeting on micronutrients and health, held at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Center on April 17–20, 2005, was organized under the auspices of WHO/ UNICEF/IVACG, with financial assistance from the Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition, Global Health Bureau, US Agency for International Development (USAID). The conference enabled scientists active in micronutrient health research to identify a limited set of emerging issues related to both the efficacy and safety of micronutrient supplementation that bear upon health and nutrition policies and require relatively urgent clarification through new, strategically conducted research. It is anticipated that future meetings will explore other timely issues relevant to the emerging agenda of nutrient-nutrient and nutrient-disease interactions as they relate to improving the health of disadvantaged populations. The aim of the conference was not to provide a formal analysis or an exhaustive review of all available data, but rather to put together a thoughtful distillation of recently completed studies and those in progress analyzed against the backdrop of existing policies, beliefs, and collective sources of potential inconsistencies. The overarching goal was to bring clarity and focus to the research agenda of greatest programmatic priority.
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