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Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Date:12/8/2008

For women, the rate of anemia was 10.8 percent during the first study period and 6.9 percent during the second.

The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia didn't drop significantly for either women or children. However, folate deficiency dropped in women during the two time periods from 4.1 percent to 0.5 percent, according to the study. Data on folate deficiency anemia in children wasn't included in the study.

One of the biggest nutritional changes that occurred during the two study periods was the addition of folic acid to breads, cereals and other grain products in the United States. But, Cusick said, even the introduction of folic acid-fortified foods didn't explain the drop in anemia prevalence.

One concerning point the study raised was the disparity in anemia rates between minority women and white women. Although anemia rates declined among black and Hispanic women, the prevalence of the condition still remained much higher in these groups. Nearly one in four black women was anemic, as were nearly 9 percent of Hispanic women. This compared to 3.3 percent of white women.

"The fact that about 25 percent of black women between 20 and 49 years of age are anemic should be considered a public health crisis," Dr. Donald Mahoney Jr., a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, wrote in an accompanying editorial in the journal.

Both Cusick and Mahoney said access to health care may be one of the issues contributing to the higher rates among minority women. Cusick said poor nutrition may also play a role.

"It's encouraging to see that the overall prevalence of anemia is declining in women and children, though certainly, as the authors clearly imply, there are still some important gaps that require additional study and intervention," Mahoney said.

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