WHO (12 May 2023)
WHO launches its first-ever comprehensive framework on reducing anaemia, calling on countries to accelerate action to halve anaemia prevalence in women of reproductive age by 2025. Progress on reducing anaemia has been slow and the world is not on track to reach the global target. Anaemia is a serious global public health problem, affecting 571 million women and 269 million young children worldwide.
In 2019, anaemia affected 40% of children between 6 months and 5 years of age, 37% of pregnant women and 30% of women 15–49 years of age. It is most prevalent in low- and middle-income countries. Anaemia increases the risk of infections and death, impairs cognitive performance, and causes extreme fatigue, poor pregnancy outcomes, loss of earnings, and poor growth and development. It is a strong indicator of overall health.
“Most work on addressing anaemia has been focused on the prevention and treatment of iron deficiency,” says Francesco Branca, the Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition and Food Safety. “However, anaemia is a complex condition with multiple causes – including other nutritional deficiencies, infections, inflammation, gynaecological and obstetric conditions, and inherited red blood cell disorders.” All must be addressed to effectively prevent and treat anaemia.
The new framework sets forth ways to address the direct causes, risk factors and broad social inequities that are fundamental drivers for anaemia. It describes the necessarily comprehensive approach that brings together multiple sectors and actors, and lays out key action areas to improve the coverage and uptake of interventions
Acknowledging that health remains the predominant sector for delivering many of the recommended interventions, the framework also proposes actions that other societal stakeholders can take. These include governments, civil society, academia, researchers, funding agencies, international organizations and media. Each has its particular role to perform in reducing anaemia and keeping people healthy.
The framework is launched during the International Maternal Newborn Health Conference.
This framework proposes strategic, effective and implementable actions which, by leading to the reduction of anaemia, will improve health and accelerate progress toward national and global targets.
- Action area 1. Analyse data on causes and risk factors
- Action area 2. Prioritize key preventive and therapeutic interventions
- Action area 3. Optimize service delivery across platforms and sectors
- Action area 4. Strengthen leadership, communication and coordination, and governance at all levels
- Action area 5. Expand research, learning and innovation
- Anaemia is a complex condition that must be addressed comprehensively, demanding strong leadership and collective action among multiple sectors.
- There are multiple causes of anaemia, including micronutrient deficiencies, inflammation, infection, uterine bleeding, and inherited red blood cell disorders.
- Anaemia has primarily been addressed through the nutrition lens, which is critical but not sufficient alone; rather, all causes must be addressed to effectively prevent and treat anaemia.
- Effective coverage of a package of interventions to address anaemia at key moments in the life course is foundational for improving health and well-being, and for preventing the irreversible consequences of anaemia.
- Anaemia remains a major public health problem, mainly affecting infants and children, menstruating adolescent girls and women, and pregnant and postpartum women.
- The burden of anaemia is unevenly distributed among countries, regions, and population groups, highlighting the role of underlying risk factors, such as poverty, gender, social and environmental inequities.