Report of the WHO technical consultation on neonatal vitamin A supplementation research priorities
Geneva, Switzerland, 4-5 December 2008
Vitamin A supplementation has been promoted as an essential child survival intervention for children 6-59 months of age. Studies that evaluated the effects of vitamin A supplementation in the 1-5 month period did not show any child survival benefits. Recently, there has been considerable interest in vitamin A supplementation during the neonatal period (0-28 days) with three trials, conducted in Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh, showing a reduction in mortality during infancy ranging from 15-64%. However, three other trials conducted in Nepal, Zimbabwe and Guinea-Bissau have shown no effect of this intervention on infant mortality, regardless of when vitamin A was given in the neonatal period.
In order to better understand these apparently contradictory results, a sytematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCT) was commissioned by the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development (WHO/CAH) and Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (WHO/NHD) to evaluate the effects of neonatal vitamin A supplementation on infant mortality, morbidity and adverse effects. The authors of this systematic review concluded that vitamin A supplementation during the neonatal period (0-28 days) was not associated with a reduced risk of infant mortality and morbidity and identified several issues that needed further research. WHO (CAH and NHD Departments) jointly with UNICEF (Nutrition Section) convened a Technical Consultation to discuss the WHO-commissioned systematic review and identify priorities for future research on neonatal vitamin A supplementation.