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About Sickkids
About SickKids

August 22, 2019

SickKids-developed-“Sprinkles” added to the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines for Children

It is well-known that malnutrition can have devastating consequences on the health and development of children around the world. Unlike in Canada, where many foods are enriched with iron and other vitamins, many under-resourced countries do not have access to fortified foods. To address the problem of micronutrient malnutrition in children, in the early 1990s, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) challenged a research team led by Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, a leading expert in nutrition at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), to come up with a solution – leading to the development of Sprinkles.

The SickKids-led team developed the concept of Micronutrient Powders (MNP), called Sprinkles, for home-fortification of ready-to-eat foods. MNP were recently added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Model List of Essential Medicines for Children (EMLc) for the prevention of anaemia in infants and children.

“We believe that the inclusion of multiple micronutrient powders to the List of Essential Medicines for Children will ultimately lead to wider access to essential vitamins and minerals for children globally,” says Dr. Zlotkin, who is now Chief of the Centre for Global Child Health at SickKids. “This could have a significant impact on the prevention of anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies in children.”

Stanley Zlotkin, dressed in lab coat and hair net, smiles for a picture as he holds a bucket of powder
Dr. Stanley Zlotkin first developed Sprinkles in SickKids’ kitchen in 1998

Sprinkles, which contain iron and other essential vitamins and minerals, are already being distributed in over 65 countries to around 20 million children annually. Packaged in single-serve sachets resembling sugar packets, the powder can be mixed into food without changing the taste, colour or texture of the food. Sprinkles are a proven public health intervention designed to allow direct fortification of all types of semi-solid foods for children six to 23 months of age, and up to the age of 12 years at the time of consumption, such as in the home or in schools.

Worldwide, the global prevalence of anaemia among preschool children is 43 per cent, or an estimated 273 million children, of which about 42 per cent is attributable to iron deficiency. Anaemia in early childhood has been shown to reduce cognitive ability, and cause developmental delays and disability.

The WHO Essential Medicines List is a core guidance document to help countries prioritize medicines that should be widely available and affordable throughout health systems.

A young child sits on a rock eating a spoonful of food
A child eating food fortified with micronutrient powders in Rwanda

As part of the list of Essential Medicines for Children, Sprinkles are now one of the 460 products deemed essential by the WHO for addressing key public health needs among children. As stated in WHO’s news release, “while this number may seem high, it corresponds to a fraction of the number of medicines available on the market. By focusing the choices, WHO is emphasizing patient benefits and wise spending with a view to helping countries prioritize and achieve universal health coverage.”

“This important milestone culminates over 20 years of research and global partnerships in support of the development of Sprinkles that began here at SickKids under the leadership of Dr. Zlotkin and his team, of which I am proud to have been a part,” says Claudia Schauer, Program Manager, Centre for Global Child Health, and a member of the original team that developed Sprinkles.

Learn more about SickKids Centre for Global Child Health.