Friday, December 05, 2008

One Billion IQ Points

Hypothyroidism and its effects on intelligence may pose the single most easily curable malady plaguing the world at large today due to the lack of iodized salt, according to Nicholas Kristof in today's NYTimes:
Almost one-third of the world’s people don’t get enough iodine from food and water. The result in extreme cases is large goiters that swell their necks, or other obvious impairments such as dwarfism or cretinism. But far more common is mental slowness.
When a pregnant woman doesn’t have enough iodine in her body, her child may suffer irreversible brain damage and could have an I.Q. that is 10 to 15 points lower than it would otherwise be. An educated guess is that iodine deficiency results in a needless loss of more than 1 billion I.Q. points around the world.

It's sad to think how so many things we take for granted, like iodized salt or chlorinated water, are luxuries in other parts of the world. It frustrates me when people knock government or public health initiatives and completely ignore all the benefits that such efforts have brought us. Hopefully articles like this one will spur philanthropic organizations like the Gates Foundation to pay more attention to this issue. As much as AIDS is a global health issue, one wishes that causes like potable water or adequate nutrition would receive equal attention.

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