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Iodine Deficiency Persists in the Zanzibar Islands of Tanzania

Assey, V. D., Greiner, T., Mzee, R. K., Abuu, H., Mgoba, C., Kimboka, S., Peterson, S.
cross-sectional studies, education, goiter, growth and development, human growth, iodine, iodine deficiency, islands, school children, seafoods, Zanzibar
Iodine is an essential micronutrient for normal human growth and development. It is estimated that more than 1.6 billion people live in iodine-deficient environments, yet there are still some countries and areas where the prevalence of iodine-deficiency disorders is unknown. To establish the prevalence of iodine-deficiency disorders in the Zanzibar Islands, a community assumed to have ready access to iodine-rich seafoods. In a cross-sectional study, 11,967 schoolchildren were palpated for goiter prevalence, a subsample was evaluated for urinary iodine concentration, and the availability of iodated salt was assessed at the household and retail levels. The mean total goiter prevalence was 21.3% for Unguja and 32.0% for Pemba. The overall median urinary iodine concentration was 127.5 μg/L. For Unguja the median was 185.7 μg/L, a higher value than the median of 53.4 μg/L for Pemba (p < .01). The household availability of iodated salt was 63.5% in Unguja and 1.0% in Pemba. The community was not aware of the iodine-deficiency problem and had never heard of iodated salt. The inadequate intake of iodine documented in the Zanzibar Islands belies the common assumption that an island population with access to seafood is not at risk for iodine-deficiency disorders. We urge health planners to implement mandatory salt iodation and education efforts to alleviate the situation.