Thursday, June 6, 2013

Iodine deficiency and women’s health: Colonialism’s malign effect on health in Oromia region, in Ethiopia

begnaBy Dr. Begna Dugassa | May 31, 2013
Vol.5, No.5, 958-972 (2013)
Toronto Public Health, Toronto, Canada;
Objectives: Iodine is an essential nutrient needed for the synthesis of hormone thyroxin. Hormone thyroxin is involved in the metabolism of several nutrients, the regulation of enzymes and differentiation of cells, tissues and organs. Iodine deficiency (ID) impairs the development of the brain and nervous system. It affects cognitive capacity, educability, productivity and child mortality. ID hinders physical strength and causes reproductive failure. The objective of this paper is to explore if the health impacts of ID are more common and severe among women. Design: Using primary data (notes from a visit) and secondary data, this paper examines if the effects of ID are more common and severe among Oromo women in Ethiopia. Findings: The health impacts of ID are more common and severe among women. Conclusions: ID is an easily preventable nutritional problem. In Oromia, the persistence of ID is explained by the Ethiopian government’s colonial social policies. Preventing ID should be seen as part of the efforts we make to enhance capacity building, promote health, gender equity and social justice. Implications: Iodine deficiency has a wide range of biological, social, economic and cultural impacts. Preventing ID can be instrumental in bringing about gender equity and social justice. Implications: Iodine deficiency has a wide range of biological, social, economic and cultural impacts. Preventing ID can be instrumental in bringing about gender equity and building the capacity of people.
Iodine Deficiency (ID) is one of the longstanding and widespread public health problems in Oromia and surrounding regions [1-3] and elsewhere in the world. All European countries, with the exception of Iceland, have experienced ID and its health and socioeconomic effects to a greater or lesser degree [4]. ID is known as an easily preventable cause of mental retardation. Directly and indirectly, ID causes reproductive failure and affects educability and productivity. It affects the capacity of people, their human resources development (i.e. intellectual, social) as well as economic and cultural progress, which are essential for the development of public health.
In Oromia, Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDDs) which refers to a wide spectrum of clinical, social, economic, cultural and intellectual declines is a major public health problem and it is one of obstacles to the socio-economic progress [1,2]. Severe ID during pregnancy can result in stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, congenital abnormalities including cretinism and an irreversible form of physical disability. In Ethiopia, the probability of children dying before they celebrate their fifth year birthday is 104 per one thousand live births. The maternal mortality rate is 470 per hundred thousand [5]. For the neighbouring, country of Kenya, where the salt is iodized, the under five-year child mortality rates are 84 per hundred thousand [6]. In 1995, all the salts sold in Kenya were iodized. At that time, less than 5 percent of the people in Ethiopia had access to iodized salt [2].
Iodine is one of the essential nutrients critically needed for the synthesis of thyroid hormone. The major physiological functions of iodine are linked to the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone is involved in the regulation of various enzymes and metabolic processes of protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and vitamins. Thyroid hormone is involved in the differentiation of several organs, systems, tissues and cells [7]. Iodine is required for several essential physiological functions of all mammals [8]. If inadequate amounts of dietary iodine are ingested, several essential physiological functions are impaired. For example, the central nervous system (brain, and spinal cord) that governs the sensory and motor functions of the body and all the embryos of mammals rapidly grow these critical organs. ID affects the growth and development of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system of the fetus [9]. Dietary iodine is one of the nutrients that do not accumulate in body tissues. This necessitates a steady lifetime supply of iodine [10].
This paper has four major parts. The first part covers the introduction, background, research problem, objective of the study and theoretical framework. The second part covers data mining. Under this, the ways in which the Oromo people have conceptualised ID and the social conditions that contribute to the problem are examined. In the fourth part, the public health impacts of ID and the ways in which it affects women’s health are explored. The last part covers discussions and conclusions.

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