Guest post by Katie Leach-Kemon, a policy translation specialist from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
For many members of the global health community, the term “maternal and child health” translates into saving the lives of women and children.
But to fully realize the mission of improving the health of this population in particular, we have to think about more than just preventing death. What is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide? Women and children, particularly those who are poor, disproportionately suffer from a disease that causes substantial disability: Anemia.
Anemia, which literally (in Greek) means lack of blood, is about starving the body of oxygen. Red blood cells carry oxygen to cells in the human body thanks to a protein known as hemoglobin, which contains iron.
Women and children suffering from low iron – whether due to malnutrition or other causes – end up suffering from anemia, essentially cellular asphyxiation.
A new study reported that in 2010, anemia as a whole accounted for around 9% of years lived with disability worldwide, making it an even greater cause of disability than depression. Iron-deficiency anemia, the type of anemia that causes the most disability, is associated with lower cognitive performance, difficulty concentrating, low productivity, weakness, and fatigue. It often goes undiagnosed, unrecognized even as it quietly strangles. Continue reading