Background: The prevalence of anaemia and iron deficiency in women remains high worldwide. WHO recommends weekly iron-folic acid supplementation where anaemia rates in non-pregnant women of reproductive age are higher than 20%. In 2006, a demonstration project consisting of weekly iron-folic acid supplementation and regular de-worming was set up in two districts in a northern province in Vietnam where anaemia and hookworm rates were 38% and 76% respectively. In 2008 the project was expanded to all districts in the province, targeting some 250,000 women. The objectives of this study were to: 1) examine changes in haemoglobin, iron stores and soil transmitted helminth infection prevalence over three years and 2) assess women's access to and compliance with the intervention.
Methods and findings: The study was a semi-cross-sectional, semi-longitudinal panel design with a baseline survey, three impact surveys at three-, twelve- and thirty months after commencement of the intervention, and three compliance surveys after ten weeks, eighteen and thirty six months.
Results: After thirty months, mean haemoglobin stabilised at 130.3 g/L, an increase of 8.2 g/L from baseline, and mean serum ferritin rose from 23.9 µg/L to 52 µg/L. Hookworm prevalence fell from 76% to 22% over the same period. After thirty six months, 81% of the target population were receiving supplements and 87% were taking 75% or more of the supplements they received.
Conclusions: Weekly iron-folic acid supplementation and regular de-worming was effective in significantly and sustainably reducing the prevalence of anaemia and soil transmitted helminth infections and high compliance rates were maintained over three years.