Multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) have now been included in the World Health Organization (WHO) model Essential Medicines List (EML) as an antenatal supplement for pregnant women. The 23rd Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines recommended the inclusion of MMS based on the strong evidence that it is a cost-effective intervention that has significant benefits compared to iron and folic acid supplementation in reducing the risk of stillbirth, low and very low birth weight babies, small for gestational age births, and preterm births.
The New York Academy of Sciences’ MMS Technical Advisory Group and Micronutrient Forum had submitted an application in November 2020 to WHO to consider including MMS in the EML, which is updated every two years. A number of country authorities and global experts in the field of maternal and child nutrition wrote letters in support of the application. The WHO Guidelines have recommended the use of MMS only in a research-specific context until now, however, the Committee believes that the inclusion of MMS in the EML may facilitate such research.
The inclusion of MMS in EML is a huge milestone in making this cost-effective intervention accessible and affordable to pregnant women, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Scaling up programs that deliver MMS to vulnerable mothers is now an urgent priority. This requires efficient supply chain system systems and building awareness on its positive health benefits among mothers, communities, and antenatal health providers. The inclusion of MMS in WHO’s EML will motivate and support countries worldwide to include it in their national EML. This would facilitate the smooth integration of MMS into their health systems and support its delivery to the most vulnerable mothers.