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Open Access Comparison of the estimated cost-effectiveness of preventive and therapeutic zinc supplementation strategies for reducing child morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa

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Background. Zinc supplementation of young children in lower-income countries reduces morbidity from diarrhea and pneumonia and all-cause mortality, but the most cost-effective approach for distributing zinc supplements is unknown.

Objective. To examine the potential impact of four possible strategies for delivering zinc supplements on disease prevention and deaths averted among children 6 to 59 months of age in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods. We analyzed different zinc supplementation strategies to assess their likely impact on morbidity and mortality of preschool children in sub-Saharan Africa and to estimate their possible costs.

Results. Preventive zinc supplementation reduces diarrhea incidence by 27% among children 12 to 59 months of age, pneumonia incidence by 21% among children 6 to 59 months of age, and all-cause mortality by 18% among children 12 to 59 months of age. The likely average total program costs of zinc supplementation programs were estimated from the outlays of existing service delivery platforms, such as child health days, community-based nutrition programs, and clinic-based treatment of diarrhea, assuming different levels of coverage and target age ranges of children.

Conclusions. We found that the average total costs per life saved ranged from approximately US$462 to US$3,111, and the most cost-effective interventions were weekly or intermittent preventive zinc supplementation, because of the possibility of high coverage and fewer supplements required. Empirical data from zinc supplementation programs will be needed to confirm these estimates.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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