Main content area

National Food-Fortification Program with Folic Acid in Chile

Hertrampf, Eva, Cortés, Fanny
blood serum, cost effectiveness, death, disability-adjusted life year, economic costs, erythrocytes, fetal death, folic acid, food fortification, issues and policy, neonates, neural tube defects, risk reduction, wheat flour, women, Chile
The Chilean Ministry of Health legislated to add folic acid (2.2 mg/100 g) to wheat flour to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTD), beginning in January 2000. This policy resulted in a significant increase in serum and red blood cell folate in women of childbearing age 1 year after fortification. The frequency of NTD was studied in all births, both live and stillbirths, in a prospective hospital-based design including 25% of national births during 1999–2000 (prefortification period) and 2001–2002 (postfortification period). During the prefortification period, there was a total of 120,566 newborns, and the NTD rate was 17.1/10,000 births. During the postfortification period (2001–2002) there was a total of 117,704 newborns, and the NTD rate was significantly reduced by 43% to 9.7/10,000 births (RR = 0.57; 95% CI, 0.45 to 0.71). This implies a reduction of 43% in the rate of NTD. The costs per NTD case and infant death averted were 1,200 international dollars (I$) and I$11,000, respectively. The cost per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted was I$91, or 0.8% of the country's per capita GDP. On the overall, fortification resulted in net cost savings of I$1.8 million. Fortification of wheat flour with folic acid has proven to be an effective and cost saving strategy for the primary prevention of NTD in a middle-income country in a postepidemiological transition, and in a dramatically short period of time.