Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Preventing iron deficiency in preschool children by implementing an educational and screening programme in an inner city practice.

British Medical Journal 1989; 299 doi: (Published 30 September 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;299:838
  1. J. James,
  2. P. Lawson,
  3. P. Male,
  4. A. Oakhill
  1. Montpelier Health Centre, Bristol.


    OBJECTIVE--To assess the feasibility and acceptability of screening young children for iron deficiency in a deprived inner city practice and to assess the effects of a programme of dietary education. DESIGN--Prospective study of children in general practice, comparison with historical controls. SETTING--A deprived inner city practice. PATIENTS--127 Children aged 13-24 months. Findings were compared with those in 110 children of the same age studied previously. INTERVENTIONS--All mothers received dietary education antenatally and in the first year after giving birth. Screening for iron deficiency (defined as mean cell volume less than 75 fl and haemoglobin concentration less than 105 g/l) and haemoglobinopathy (when appropriate) was offered for all children attending for immunisation against measles, mumps, and rubella over 12 months; capillary blood samples were taken after immunisation. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Uptake of the screening programme expressed as the percentage of all children eligible for immunisation who were screened, and the effectiveness of the dietary education as shown by the prevalence of iron deficiency in the two groups. RESULTS--Altogether, 122 of the 127 (96%) children who attended for immunisation had their haemoglobin concentration and mean cell volume measured; 90% of all children aged 13-24 months in the practice were screened. Dietary education, clinical procedures, and counselling were incorporated successfully into the clinic's work. Ten children (8%) were iron deficient, all of whom responded to iron supplements, and eight had a haemoglobinopathy trait. In the previous study 110 children (70%) had been screened and 28 children (25%) had been iron deficient. The two groups were similar in terms of sex, social class, and ethnic group. CONCLUSIONS--Screening young children for iron deficiency, sickle cell disease, and thalassaemia when they attended for immunisation was acceptable and successful in a socially deprived inner city practice. Dietary education may have accounted for some of the reduction in the prevalence of iron deficiency that occurred over the two years.