Nutrition

Neonatal vitamin A supplementation research priorities

WHO technical consultation

4-5 December 2008, Geneva Switzerland

Background

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 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 systematic review of randomized controlled trials was commissioned by the World Health Organization’s Departments of Child and Adolescent Health and Development (WHO/CAH) and 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 reduced risk of infant mortality and morbidity and identified several issues that needed further research. The WHO (CAH and NHD Departments) convened a Technical Consultation to discuss the WHO systematic review and identify priorities for future research on neonatal vitamin A supplementation.

Objectives

  • To review the findings of the WHO commissioned systematic review.
  • To identify and discuss research gaps in the use of vitamin A supplements for neonates.
  • To prioritize the research needs.
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