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Iodine Global Network

The Iodine Global Network (IGN) is the leading global advocate for iodization research and action. The IGN supports and catalyzes national and international iodine nutrition programs, working with public, private, community, and scientific partners. The IGN focuses on universal salt iodization programs throughout the developing world to combat the debilitating cognitive and physical health problems caused by iodine deficiency. The IGN has ten regional coordinators that facilitate and catalyze salt iodization initiatives throughout the world.

The Problem

Iodine Deficiency. More than 3.5 billion people today are malnourished--that’s roughly than half the world’s population. These people suffer from an array of preventable health problems because they lack access to vital micronutrients in their daily diet. Iodine is a micronutrient crucial for bone and brain development. However around two billion people--nearly a third of the world’s population--get too little iodine in their food. This can lead to increased rates of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant mortality, as well as cognitive and developmental problems, stunting, cretinism, goiter, and hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the world.

Much progress has already been made. The number of iodine deficient countries was reduced from 54 in 2003 to 32 in 2011. Yet despite many years of global universal salt iodization efforts, about 30 percent of households in the developing world are still iodine deficient. New models are needed to ensure full and sustained coverage.

The Solution

Salt Fortification. The good news is that fortifying salt with iodine is safe, relatively easy, has high returns on investment and is extremely inexpensive—an estimated $.02- $.18 per person per year. Benefits include improved health, lowered health care costs, economic growth, and reduction of poverty.

Fortunately, it is safe and relatively easy to fortify salt with iodine, by adding potassium iodate during the production process. Most large salt producers do this routinely, but unfortunately a number of small and medium-sized producers in the developing world lack the means or knowledge to do so.

How the IGN is different from other charities

The IGN’s vision is to create a world where all men, women, and children can reach their optimal cognitive potential through proper iodine nutrition programs. The IGN works in partnership with public, private and international organizations to create and sustain universal salt iodization programs in countries afflicted by iodine deficiency. The nonprofit advocates for new national programs and provides monitoring and guidance for existing programs. The IGN also serves as a liaison between groups, helping to match implementing agencies with targeted countries.

The IGN advocates to change political will and national awareness about the importance of iodine nutrition at the national and community levels. In addition, IGN identifies and addresses scientific questions about proper iodine nutrition, in order to help facilitate and direct research and implement those findings to help communities most vulnerable to iodine nutrition.

Why the IGN is effective

Cost-effective

The IGN estimates that on average it costs only one to five cents per year to provide one additional person with access to adequately iodized salt. The Copenhagen Consensus recognizes Iodization of salt to eliminate IDD as one of the best investment strategies in international development.

Proven impact

Thanks to a concerted effort over 25 years, spearheaded by the IGN and the World Health Organization, 50 African countries now have iodization programs and 70 percent of Africans have access to iodized salt. The IGN has persuaded states such as Sudan and India to enact iodization legislation. A salt iodization campaign in Pakistan has reduced severe iodine deficiency from 37 percent to three percent among women, and from 23 percent to two percent among school-aged children between 2001 and 2011.

Established leadership

The IGN draws on nearly 30 years of expertise from academics, salt industry representatives, and partner organizations. The organization oversees about 100 regional and national coordinators and partner agencies.

Global partnerships

The IGN oversees national and international iodization efforts and keep a Global Iodine Scorecard for monitoring progress. The IGN works in partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Micronutrient Initiative, and UNICEF. You can read more about the IGN’s partnership with GAIN here.

Economically beneficial

As well as improving health, Universal Salt Iodization has been shown to reduce poverty and boost economic growth. One study showed that a one percent decrease in malnutrition led to a four percent reduction in poverty, and the Copenhagen Consensus estimates that for each dollar donated, productivity increases by thirty dollars.

High Impact

The IGN’s accountability and sustainability

The IGN is a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save. GiveWell lists them as a Standout Charity and in 2014, Good Ventures awarded a $250,000 grant to help facilitate the IGN’s salt iodization programming.

The IGN openly shares detailed information about its programs. The organization also posts all of its financial reports and documents for public viewing on its website.

The IGN facilitates partnerships and communication between businesses, nonprofits, national governments, and local communities in its work to catalyze universal salt iodization programs. It works to share expertise and secure long-term iodine supplies to ensure that programs continue long after it has left.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s an example of the IGN’s work and impact?

As a direct result of the IGN’s support for universal salt iodization programs in Ethiopia, the organization and its partners worked to effectively bring the national rate of iodization coverage from less than 5 percent of households to more than 85 percent.

Is iodization cost-effective?

Yes. Iodization efforts are cheap to implement and economically beneficial to countries and local communities. A prime example is Switzerland , which eliminated iodine deficiency and its effects via universal salt iodization last century. Besides preventing iodine deficiency-related disease and suffering, the program cost of 0.7 million euros led to an estimated savings of 500 million euros.

Before widespread salt iodization began to be adopted, the yearly potential losses attributable to iodine deficiency in the developing world were estimated as $35 billion, compared with an estimated $0.5 billion yearly cost for salt iodization. These numbers suggest a rough 70 to 1 benefit to cost ratio.

What will my donation pay for?

The IGN allocates about 80 percent of its budget to support its regional coordinators, who identify and monitor opportunities for iodization in their local regions. The IGN allocates the remaining 20 percent of its budget to cover the cost of research and publications, administration, and maintaining communications between partners--all crucial aspects of effective salt fortification support.

 

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Iodine Global Network?

We recommend IGN because they have been named a Standout Charity by GiveWell, a highly respected charity evaluator.

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