Expert, Public Health, Ministry of Health, Oman
24 October 2017
FFI: What inspired you to become involved with food fortification?
Alasfoor: As the Director of Nutrition, the Ministry of Health leadership and I pursued low-cost, high-impact interventions beyond drugs and medicine. In addition, the World Health Organization’s support was instrumental in helping us gain technical expertise and knowledge in food fortification.
FFI: What health outcomes do you expect fortification to improve in your country?
Alasfoor: We have observed through data, that fortification has reduced neural tube defects by 80% since fortification started. Salt iodization virtually eliminated iodine deficiency disorders; and anemia among women has been consistently declining in the last 15 years.
FFI: What are the main components to a successful fortification program where you live?
Alasfoor: The main factor for a successful program is the political will from government and the support from industry. Without the vision and support of Dr. Ali Moussa; the former Minister of Health, this achievement would have not been possible. Also, the industry willingness and technical capacity was a great asset in speeding up the process. It took one year from the first discussion for fortification to be implemented. Without a willing and capable miller, this would have taken at least five years.
FFI: What can we do, as a society, to continue raising the fortification efforts?
Alasfoor: It is important to engage high-level health authorities from all countries in the discussion; and create an international platform that is under the World Health Organization or a similar international body. This program would aim to combat disease through food based strategies such as fortification; and dietary diversification.
FFI: Would you like to share anything else?
Alasfoor: Food fortification should not be viewed in isolation of other strategies. A comprehensive effort with the main objective to improve people’s health and well-being should target cost-effective strategy. Fortification will then emerge as a natural choice.