Weekly iron supplements given by teachers sustain the haemoglobin concentration of schoolchildren in the Philippines


Natalie Roschnik, 191 Coldhams Lane, Cambridge CB1 3HY, UK. Tel./Fax: +44 1223 704 644; E-mail: nroschnik@savechildren.org (corresponding author).
Amado Parawan, Melba Andrea B. Baylon and Teresita Chua, Save the Children (USA), #1 Encarnacion Street, Corner Lapu-Lapu Avenue, Magallanes Village, Makati City, Philippines. Tel.: +63 2 8523064; Fax: +63 2 8530215; E-mail: aparawan@savechildren.org or docmads@pacific.net.ph; boots_baylon@yahoo.com; tchua@savechildren.org
Andrew Hall, School of Integrated Health, University of Westminster, London NW1 3ET, UK. Tel.: +44 20 7911 5000; E-mail: a.hall04@westminster.ac.uk


Objectives  To examine the effectiveness of weekly iron supplements given for 10 weeks by teachers to children in rural schools in the Philippines.

Methods  Forty-nine rural primary schools took part in the study and were randomly assigned to two groups: children in 25 schools received a weekly tablet providing 108 mg iron while children in 24 schools acted as controls. All children were dewormed before the start of the iron supplementation. The haemoglobin concentration of a systematic sample of one in three children in two classes in each school was estimated before and 5–17 weeks after the end of the iron supplementation.

Results  A total of 1510 children aged 7–12 years were studied at both surveys. The mean haemoglobin concentration of children in the intervention group did not change significantly; in the untreated group it fell by 3.8 g/l and the prevalence of anaemia rose from 14.3% to 25.6%. The difference between study groups was significantly larger amongst the younger children (7–8 years), and was observed in both anaemic and non-anaemic children.

Conclusion  Even where anaemia is only a mild public health problem, weekly iron supplements given by teachers may prevent a fall in the haemoglobin concentration, and can benefit both anaemic and non-anaemic children.