Today we will be discussing the global burden of anemia. Anemia is characterized by a decrease in red blood cells and causes weakness, fatigue and death.
Using over 400 publically available data sets from the World Health Organization and individual countries, Dr. Kassenbaum and colleagues estimated the global burden of anemia by calculating the mean hemoglobin levels and the severity of anemia in 187 countries.
Dr. Pasricha commented on the prevalence of anemia in an editorial:
“The estimates have varied over the last few years, but we could say that there are at least 1.5 billion anemic people worldwide. 32.9% of the world’s population is currently anemic.”
While the overall prevalence of anemia decreased from 1990 to 2010, the prevalence is highest among women and children younger than 5 years.
Dr. Kassebaum describes the areas of the world most afflicted by anemia:
“Much of sub-Saharan Africa had the highest burden of anemia, specifically Central, West, and Eastern sub-Saharan Africa. In 1990, East, Southeast, and South Asia also had very high levels, but they have experienced great improvements since that time, whereas sub-Saharan Africa has not realized the same decline in the anemia prevalence.”
Worldwide, the main causes of anemia were found to be iron deficiency, hookworms, schistosomiasis , sickle cell disorders, thalassemias , and malaria. Iron deficiency was the most common cause of anemia worldwide, but iron deficiency was lowest in North America.
Here is Dr. Kassebaum:
“There are still great challenges in reducing the burden of anemia worldwide. Effective strategies to prevent anemia and to treat anemia need to be really focused on the population of interest including both the geography and the age of the patient, but also the sex of the patient is incredibly important.”
The medical community also needs to be aware of ways to reduce anemia. The World Health Organization recommends iron supplementation for pregnant women and children living in areas with a high prevalence of anemia. Transfusions also play a role reducing anemia in trauma patients and those with thalassemia and sickle cell disease.
We’ll be back with another edition of Transfusion News on March 15th. Thanks for joining us.
1. Kassebaum NJ, Jasrasaria R, Naghavi M, Wulf SK, Johns N, Lozano R, Regan M, Weatherall D, Chou DP, Eisele TP, Flaxman SR, Pullan RL, Brooker SJ, Murray CJ. A systematic analysis of global anemia burden from 1990 to 2010. Blood 2014;123: 615-24.
2. Pasricha SR. Anemia: a comprehensive global estimate. Blood 2014;123: 611-2.