National and regional population attributable fractions for anemia risk factors (iron, folate, and vitamin B12) in Belize: potential impact of fortification

Rosenthal et al.


To estimate the national and regional population attributable fraction (PAF) and potential number of preventable anemia cases for three nutritional risk factors (iron, red blood cell folate [RBCF], and vitamin B12 deficiencies) among women of childbearing age in Belize.


A national probability-based household and micronutrient survey capturing sociodemographic and health information was conducted among 937 nonpregnant Belizean women aged 15–49 years. Blood samples were collected to determine hemoglobin, ferritin, alpha-1-glycoprotein (AGP), RBCF, and vitamin B12 status. All analyses used sample weights and design variables to reflect a complex sample survey. Logistic regression was used to determine adjusted prevalence risk (aPR) ratios, which were then used to estimate national and regional PAF for anemia.


The overall prevalence of anemia (hemoglobin <12 g/dL) was 21.2% (95% CI [18.7, 25.3]). The prevalence of anemia was significantly greater among women with iron deficiency (59.5%, 95% CI [48.7, 69.5]) compared to women without iron deficiency (15.2%, 95% CI [12.2, 18.3]; aPR 3.9, 95% CI [2.9, 5.1]). The three nutritional deficiencies examined contributed to 34.6% (95% CI [22.1, 47.1]) of the anemia cases. If all these nutritional deficiencies could be eliminated, then an estimated 5 953 (95% CI [3 807, 8 114]) anemia cases
could be prevented.


This study suggests that among women of child-bearing age in Belize, anemia cases might be reduced by a third if three modifiable nutritional risk factors (iron, RBCF, and vitamin B12 deficiencies) could be eliminated. Fortification is one potential strategy to improve nutritional status and reduce the burden of anemia in this population.

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