Dr. Stanley Zlotkin Develops ‘Sprinkles’ to prevent Anaemia in Vulnerable Populations

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Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, a ‘champion of intervention’, had a notion that a simple form of ‘home fortification’ could prevent anaemia in developing countries – and he made it happen.  Because of his willingness, perseverance, and integrity our world is better, happier and healthier.

Dr. Zlotkin, paediatrician and Chief of Global Child Health at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, attended a meeting in Copenhagen in 1996 as a consultant for UNICEF, where he was asked to create an inexpensive iron and micronutrients product to prevent anaemia in vulnerable populations.

Over a ten-year span, Dr. Zlotkin and his team came up with a solution while

working at night in the hospital kitchen blending iron and micronutrients into powder form.  Encased in a sachet no larger than a packet of sugar, the micronutrient powders can be sprinkled onto any semi-solid food and it does not affect the taste, smell or consistency.

“Our primary guiding principle is that every child, youth, woman and man has the right to foods that are of adequate quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs to promote the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health.”

Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, President of Sprinkles Global Health Initiative, Chief of Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children, and Professor of Paediatrics, Nutritional Sciences and Public Health at the University of Toronto

"Food security is more than supplying enough calories to a child, it is also about supplying enough essential nutrients,” says Dr. Zlotkin, President of Sprinkles Global Health Initiative

Anaemia impairs physical and neurological development and can cause extreme fatigue, arrhythmia, pneumonia – and death. 

Iron-deficiency anaemia is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency in the world today, affecting as many as 1.5 billion people including women of childbearing age, pregnant women and infants, children and adolescents.  Malnutrition is one of the primary causes of preventable deaths for children under the age of five.

Parents in developing countries do not have access to manufactured food fortified with iron; rather they prepare food for their babies using locally grown rice, maize or wheat - none of which contains sufficient iron.  Even though iron drops are available, most children do not like them because of the strong, metallic taste and mothers do not like them because they turn their children’s teeth brown.

Carrying out large-scale research projects in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Dr. Zlotkin and his team were able to contract several local companies to mass produce ‘Sprinkles’ at two to three cents per packet.  Distribution is handled through local ministries of health and programs such as UNICEF, the World Food Program, and the UN High Commission on Refugees, which have a huge capacity for knowledge translation and implementation.

UNICEF initially started global distribution of Sprinkles with five or six essential

Photo above: Mothers receiving Sprinkles for their young children in Pakistan - Photo courtesy of Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, Chief of Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children and Professor of Paediatrics, Nutritional Sciences and Public Health at the University of Toronto

minerals and vitamins and later expanded to 17 micronutrients.  Refining the package, Dr. Zlotkin is adding five other micronutrients aimed at low-birth-weight babies to prevent stunted growth and other negative health effects.

essential minerals and vitamins and later expanded to 17 micronutrients.  Refining the package, Dr. Zlotkin is adding five other micronutrients aimed at low-birth-weight babies to prevent stunted growth and other negative health effects.

Recently Dr. Zlotkin was awarded the inaugural Mining4Life chair in mineral nutrition to continue the work of improving health of children around the world.

Established in 2010, Mining4Life is an

industry-wide initiative backed by dozens of global mining companies.  Its mandate is to invest in the economic and social well-being of communities and help to create and support sustainable health and education solutions for children around the world.

“Global health programs such as Sprinkles are delivered to children in regions where the mining industry has a major presence,” said Aaron Regent, founding partner of Magris Resources and a former CEO of Barrick Gold and Falconbridge, as reported in the Globe and Mail newspaper.

“As an industry, we see firsthand the working environment in these developing countries and the challenges that communities and governments face, and child health and malnutrition is an issue that we see,” added Regent.

With UNICEF and other UN agencies, as well as Save the Children, World Vision, and Care and Plan, Dr. Zlotkin hopes many more children will receive Sprinkles. 

Dr. Zlotkin has never profited from Sprinkles; he gave the patent to public domain several years ago.

“The use of micronutrient powders is, I believe, an important component of food security. I wish I could predict that malnutrition and food insecurity will soon be a notion of the past, but unfortunately, that is unlikely to be true. I am pleased that our extensive research demonstrating the safety and efficacy of micronutrient powders is truly paying off,” says Dr. Zlotkin. 

Thank you Dr. Stanley Zlotkin!  You are our champion! You’re brilliant!

Dr. Zlotkin is past Chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society Nutrition Committee and is a frequent consultant to governments and UN agencies on issues relating to global child health nutrition. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious CIHR National Knowledge Translation Award for “outstanding contributions to the health of children worldwide.” He was awarded the HJ Heinz Humanitarian Award in 2001 and the Order of Canada in 2007 for improving the lives of children globally. Dr. Zlotkin is renowned as a successful social entrepreneur for his work on home fortification and awarded an International Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.

Today, Dr. Zlotkin continues to head the Sprinkles Global Health Initiative at the Hospital for Sick Children and is an active researcher with well over 100 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Zlotkin was appointed Vice-President of Medical and Academic Affairs at SickKids in 2010 and in September 2012, he was named the inaugural Chief of SickKids Centre for Global Child Health.  

Written by Veronika Bradley, Editor for Children’s Health and Safety Association – March 31, 2015 and Republished by Diligencia Investigative Reporting – April 2019

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