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To study (i) the current prevalence of iodine-deficiency disorders among schoolchildren in south-western Saudi Arabia after universal salt iodization and (ii) the iodine content of table salts and water.
Cross-sectional study on a stratified proportional allocation sample of children. Thyroid gland enlargement was assessed clinically and by ultrasound scanning. Urine, table salt and water samples were taken to measure iodine content.
The Aseer region, south-western Saudi Arabia.
Schoolchildren aged 8–10 years.
The study included 3046 schoolchildren. The total goitre rate amounted to 24·0 %. Prevalence of enlarged thyroid by ultrasound was 22·7 %. The median urinary iodine concentration of the study sample amounted to 17·0 µg/l. The iodine content of table salt ranged from 0 to 112 mg/kg; 22·5 % of the table salt samples were below the recommended iodine content (15 mg/kg) set by WHO. The total goitre rate increased significantly from 19·8 % among children using table salt with iodine content ≥15 mg/kg to reach 48·5 % among children using table salt with 0 mg iodine/kg. Analysis of water samples taken from schools showed that the majority of water samples (78·8 %) had an iodine content of 0 µg/l.
The study documented that 18 years after the national study, and after more than a decade of universal salt iodization in Saudi Arabia, the problem of iodine-deficiency disorders is still endemic in the Aseer region. Efforts should focus on fostering advocacy and communication and ensuring the availability of adequately iodized salt.
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