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Iodine Global Network

The Iodine Global Network (IGN) is the leading global organization supporting the elimination of iodine deficiency, the world’s most prevalent, yet easily preventable, cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities. The IGN supports healthy iodine nutrition in virtually every country of the world through a safe, effective and affordable solution: iodized salt. IGN’s key role is to coordinate collective action between the diverse stakeholders required to make this happen: salt producers, food industry, development partners, and researchers. 

Eliminating iodine deficiency: A public health triumph

The IGN and its partners have committed to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders in all countries by 2020. Achieving this goal would be a public health triumph on par with the eradication of polio and smallpox.

The Problem

Iodine Deficiency: Iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the world. Iodine is a crucial nutrient for healthy brain development. When populations are deficient, pregnant women and newborns are particularly affected. Iodine deficiency can lead to cognitive and developmental impairment, as well as miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant mortality.

Today, tens of millions of people remain at risk of iodine deficiency, according to estimates from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and IGN.

The Solution

Salt Iodization. Fortunately, iodine deficiency can be prevented easily and affordably by adding a small amount of iodine to the salt that we consume. Healthy iodine nutrition has far-reaching impacts on human and economic prosperity. The Copenhagen Consensus recognizes iodization of salt to eliminate iodine deficiency as one of the best investment strategies in international development.

Much progress has been made, and today, 86 per cent of the global population has access to iodized salt. However, the remaining populations still vulnerable to iodine deficiency face devastating and life-limiting consequences.

IGN is working to reach these populations and the mothers and newborn infants born in these communities. IGN is focusing its work, together with in-country partners, on places where salt iodization is not yet routine, where the salt industry is fragmented and faces challenges to iodize salt, and where salt used in processed foods and condiments is not yet iodized. 

How the IGN is Different from Other Charities

IGN and its partners are united by the vision of a world where all children are born with the opportunity to thrive. IGN’s mission is to support this through universal salt iodization.

Like many charities, IGN works directly with affected communities, but their key strength lies in playing a unique and critical role in bringing partners together. Eliminating iodine deficiency demands collective action by many stakeholders: the salt industry to source, process, and iodize raw salt; governments to mandate and monitor programs; civil society to create demand and encourage compliance; and development partners to provide technical assistance and support programs on the ground. IGN’s core mandate is to facilitate collaboration between partners to deliver iodine nutrition at the national population level in countries around the world.

To catalyze universal salt iodization, IGN advocates for political will and national awareness, provides technical assistance, and aligns iodine elimination with the broader nutrition agenda. In addition, IGN investigates scientific questions to help the communities most vulnerable to iodine nutrition.

Why the IGN is Effective

Evidence-based impact

Salt iodization programs have already helped to achieve healthy iodine nutrition in all but 19 countries of the world. IGN helps to facilitate this progress and tracks it through a Global Iodine Scorecard. IGN tracks global food fortification efforts in partnership with the Food Fortification Initiative (FFI), GAIN, and Micronutrient Forum, through the Global Fortification Data Exchange (GFDx).

Cost effectiveness

Salt iodization is extremely inexpensive – an estimated US$0.02- US$0.05 per person per year – with far-reaching impact and high returns on investment.

Far-reaching and economic impact

Improving nutrition has a ripple effect on education, poverty, and equality. Every US$1 invested in salt iodization returns up to US$81 in economic productivity, according to the World Bank.

Established leadership

IGN draws on nearly 30 years of expertise from Governments, researchers, salt industry representatives, and partner organizations.

A truly global network

IGN works in virtually every country in the world, through a network of regional and national coordinators who catalyze salt iodization initiatives.

High Impact

The IGN’s Accountability and Sustainability

The IGN is a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save. GiveWell lists them as a Standout Charity and in 2014, Good Ventures awarded a US$250,000 grant to help facilitate the IGN’s salt iodization programming.

The IGN openly shares detailed information about its programs. The organization also posts all of its financial reports and documents for public viewing on its website.

The IGN facilitates partnerships and communication between businesses, nonprofits, national governments, and local communities in its work to catalyze universal salt iodization programs. It works to share expertise and secure long-term iodine supplies to ensure that programs continue long after it has left.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s an example of the IGN’s work and impact?

As a direct result of the IGN’s support for universal salt iodization programs in Ethiopia, the organization and its partners worked to effectively bring the national rate of iodization coverage from less than 5 percent of households to more than 85 percent.

Is iodization cost-effective?

Yes. Iodization efforts are cheap to implement and economically beneficial to countries and local communities. A prime example is Switzerland , which eliminated iodine deficiency and its effects via universal salt iodization last century. Besides preventing iodine deficiency-related disease and suffering, the program cost of 0.7 million euros led to an estimated savings of 500 million euros.

Before widespread salt iodization began to be adopted, the yearly potential losses attributable to iodine deficiency in the developing world were estimated as US$35 billion, compared with an estimated US$0.5 billion yearly cost for salt iodization. These numbers suggest a rough 70 to 1 benefit to cost ratio.

What will my donation pay for?

Give the gift of iodized salt: All donated funds support specific activities and projects at the national, regional, and global levels to catalyze salt iodization programs. Because IGN works in virtually every country of the world, your request to support a specific country or region can usually be accommodated. To find out more about IGN’s work supported by donors, please read or subscribe to The Iodine Blog.

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Iodine Global Network?

We recommend IGN because they have been named a Standout Charity by GiveWell, a highly respected charity evaluator.

What will your impact be?

Find out using our Impact Calculator.


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