Currently, an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide have an insufficient intake of iodine. Universal Salt Iodization (USI) is the primary strategy for preventing and controlling iodine deficiency, however, USI has not achieved uniform levels of success. In situations where iodine needs of vulnerable groups are unmet, UNICEF and WHO recommend iodine supplementation. However, a limited amount of documentation exists on country experiences with iodine supplementation. The objective of this research is to address this gap in the knowledge and document national experiences with iodine supplementation in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
To compare national policy responses in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, we reviewed the academic and grey literature, examined government documents, and carried out in-depth, semi-structured interviews with government officials and subject matter experts in each of the country case studies.
The three countries had different national policy responses for iodine supplementation. In Indonesia, the national government ended its iodine supplementation program to focus on USI; in the Philippines, oral iodized oil capsules are currently used in addition to USI; and in Thailand, daily tablets are distributed alongside iodized salt.
In all three countries, iodine deficiency has been recognized as a serious public health concern, however, different national policy responses have emerged for iodine supplementation. For policy makers and researchers looking to plan public health strategies, it is important to recognize the opportunities and challenges associated with focusing on USI alone, implementing iodized oil programs, or distributing iodine tablets.