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Iodine-enriched eggs wipe out illness in Udon Thani babies

THE NUMBER of children with cretinism (thyroid-hormone deficiency resulting in mental stunting) in an Udon Thani tambon has been reduced to zero after every woman was given free iodine-enriched eggs through a pilot project organised by the National Health Security Office (NHSO).

Children who already had the condition have seen improvements in their intelligence levels and muscle strength after receiving the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) with the office's assistance.

Five years ago, it was discovered that 20 children in the tambon had been born with the condition due to the lack of iodine-relevant foods. The NHSO responded with its pilot programme, together with help from the TSH provision project. The condition was eradicated and the general condition of the children improved, said Amnuay Intharathirat, head of Na Phoo Tambon Administrative Organisation in Udon Thani's Phen district.

Under a joint assistance scheme with Kasetsart University and the Department of Medical Sciences, local chicken farms have been provided with cheap enhanced feed that enriches eggs with iodine. The average daily cost of the feed is only Bt1 per hen and provides each household with four eggs to eat each day.

The project manager at Naphoo Hospital, Pannawit Suphaphote, said families were now being supplied with five hens, which ensured that all members, including newborns, children and pregnant women, had sufficient supplies of iodine-enriched eggs to prevent the condition and other iodine deficiency disorders.

The hens also bring in extra income gained through the sale of leftover eggs - of around Bt400 per month.

In the year since this scheme began, no new child victims with the condition have emerged, while older people supplied with the iodine-enriched eggs are showing signs of improvement in their health.

Apart from the chicken feed, the scheme promotes hydroponics that grow minerals-added vegetables for all households in the tambon.

Pannawit said the 12,513-strong tambon, where this NHSO-assisted scheme was commenced as a pilot project, now reports no IDD cases, Some 150 pregnant women, 112 others who are breastfeeding, and 835 children aged up to 15 years are provided with at least three iodine-enriched eggs a week, thanks to the NHSO initiative and subsequent funding of around Bt125,000.

Ten-year-old Thanadol Nissakul said his home raised 10 hens fed with enhanced feed, which produced up to five iodine-enriched eggs each day. The fourth grader said he loved egg-based meals on the menu and earned extra money selling leftover eggs at Bt5 apiece.

Electrician Prawes Butkaew said he raised around 100 eggs each month, sufficient for three young children and made extra money selling the leftovers.

Of 760,704 newborns, who went through the NHSO-supported thyroid-stimulating hormone programme last year across the country, only 490 have suffered from the thyroid deficiency condition - a number regarded as very small - after this scheme commenced, NHSO secretary-general Dr Winai Sawatdiworn said.

He said the iodine-enriched eggs and hydropronics projects were financed in part from a Bt100-million budget of the Department of Medical Sciences under the Public Health Ministry. He said the scheme had also run in other areas after it proved a success in tambon Naphoo in Udon Thani's Phen district.


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