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The contribution of vitamin A to public health.

Vitamin A deficiency among children in developing countries remains the leading cause of preventable severe visual impairment and blindness, and is a significant contributor to severe infections and death, particularly from diarrhea and measles. Vitamin A deficiency is also likely to increase vulnerability to other illnesses in both women and children, such as iron-deficiency anemia, and may be an important factor contributing to poor maternal performance during pregnancy and lactation and to growth deficits in children.

Benefits to public health can be expected by improving the vitamin A status of deficient populations through an appropriate mix of acceptable, affordable, and available programs including promotion of breast-feeding, control of infections, dietary diversification, food fortification, and supplementation. Benefits include not only improved health and welfare for individuals and their families, but also improved chances of survival for an estimated 254 million children.