7.1  The importance of micronutrients

Earlier, in Study Session 2, you looked at micronutrients and their sources, and you learned that people’s health and vitality depends on a diet that includes adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals to keep the body functioning efficiently. Vitamins are necessary in small amounts in our diet to facilitate growth, maintenance of health and reproduction. Minerals do not originate in animal or plant life but come from the earth. Although minerals make up only a small portion of body tissues, they are essential for normal growth and functioning.

Because only very minute quantities of vitamins and minerals are needed for health, they are called micronutrients. These elements are essential; they cannot be manufactured by the human body and must be obtained through dietary means. Among these micronutrients, three have obtained worldwide attention and are the focus of this study session due to their high public health significance. Vitamin A, iodine and iron deficiencies lead to grave health, social and economic consequences; but the good news is that there are cost-effective strategies to overcome these deficiencies.

  • What role do you think that village level health workers could have in helping their communities avoid micronutrient deficiencies?

  • Village health workers such as yourself can encourage families to grow the right sort of foods, and to attend and bring their children to supplementation and treatment services. You can also work with the women in your village to help identify potential problems and families who need support.

The overall goals and objectives of the prevention and treatment of micronutrient deficiencies in Ethiopian are shown in Box 7.1.

Box 7.1  Overall goals and objectives of the prevention and treatment of micronutrient deficiencies in Ethiopia

Goal: to achieve virtual elimination of micronutrient deficiencies in Ethiopia by 2015.


  • To increase coverage of the programmes that improve the micronutrient status of the population
  • To develop standards for national programmes
  • To provide reference materials and aids to health care professionals.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 7

7.2  Vitamin A, iodine and iron deficiencies in Ethiopia