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South African Medical Journal

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Proposed vitamin A supplementation programme for South Africa - design, coverage and cost

R Saitowitz, M Hendricks, J Fiedler, I le Roux, G Hussey, B Makan

Abstract


Background. A national survey of the micronutrient status of preschool children in South Africa established that vitamin A deficiency is a significant public health problem, requiring urgent attention. A number of immediate and long-term intenrentions were recommended, including the introduction of a vitamin A supplementation programme and a food fortification programme.

Objectives. The aim of the study was to assist in the development and implementation of a national vitamin A supplementation programme at primary health care facilities for mothers and children. This was achieved by determining the design, coverage and cost of a national primary health care facility vitamin A supplementation programme.

Methods. Based on an extensive review of the literature, the main components of a primary health care facility vitamin A supplementation programme were identified. The annual, recurrent cost of each of the programme component wer estimated for the nine provinces in South Africa. Immunisation coverage rates were used as a proxy for estimating the coverage of the programme.

Results. The main components of the programme were identified as: promotion, training, purchase of vitamin A capsules, distribution of vitamin A capsules to primary health care facilities, clistribution of cap ule to the programme beneficiaries, and monitoring and evaluation. The programme would operate from primary health care facililities and would target all children between 6 and 24  months of age and newly delivered mothers. It was estimated that the programme would cover 74% of children and 95% of postpartum women nationally. The total annual, recurrent cost of the national programme was estimated at R16.4 million. The bulk of the costs would include personnel costs, comprising 68% of the total costs. Other costs included promotion (27%), vitamin A capsules (4%) and training (1%). The cost of the programme would vary significantly by province, but the provinces' average total cost per beneficiary would be similar.

Conclusion. A primary health care facility vitamin A supplementation programme has been designed and accompanied by an estimated overall cost and coverage for implementation. The findings of the study showed that the programme would be financially feasible and would reach the majority of children under 24 months of age. It is recommended that further research be undertaken to extend the programme to the more 'hard to reach' population using other stategies such as mass immunisation campaigns.




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