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Anaemia prevention in the Northern Territory

Anaemia during pregnancy may cause negative health outcomes for mothers and for infants, so evaluating programs helping to prevent anaemia will help health services and families to understand what works, where it works, and how such measures may be applied to help improve health outcomes.

In one Lowitja Institute funded project, led by Dr Thérèse Kearns from Menzies School of Health Research, researchers aimed to identify if a community driven anaemia prevention program was successful in reducing the prevalence of anaemia in infants aged less than 2 years.

“Anaemia during the first few years of life has significant effects on development which can last a life time.” said Dr Kearns discussing the project, which reviewed electronic records of primary health care presentations in the first 2 years of life for children born between January 2010 and July 2014.

“We included three communities, one of which was the driver of [a successful] prevention program, and two other communities which did not have an anaemia prevention program in place.”

The anaemia prevention program aimed to give kids three prophylactic doses of iron per week from the age of 6 months.

“We found that of the kids on the prevention program, only 50% developed anaemia compared to 91% of kids not on the program. These kids developed anaemia at a later age (13.5 months) than kids not on the program (9 months).”

“This is a major finding as currently our best practice guidelines only target preterm and low birth weight babies for preventative treatment.”

“Our findings could change public health practice and policy in regards to providing preventative treatment to infants born to mothers who had anaemia in the last trimester of pregnancy” concluded Dr Kearns.

For more information about this project visit the project page.