Impact of Vitamin A Supplementation on Health Status and Absenteeism of School Children in Sri Lanka
The objective of this study was to determine the impact of Vitamin A supplementation on health status and absenteeism of school children. A randomized double blind placebo controlled trial over a period of 13 months was conducted in a rural area of Sri Lanka involving 613 school children attending Grades 1-5 (aged 5 to 13 years). Children were assigned to either 200,000 IU of Vitamin A (n=297) or placebo (n=316) once every 4 months. Socio-demographic data were obtained at baseline, and anthropometry and haemoglobin concentrations were assessed at baseline and post intervention. Serum vitamin A concentrations were assayed by HPLC in a subgroup of children (n=193) before administration of each dose. School absenteeism was recorded. The two groups of children were similar at baseline in all variables.
The subgroup of children was comparable to the main study population. The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency (< 20 microg/dL) in the subgroup of children was 8.2%. Changes in anthropometric indices and haemoglobin concentrations were similar in the two groups. The major causes for absenteeism were non-health causes and supplemented children lost a fewer number of school days due to illness than placebo children (p=0.053). Vitamin A concentrations improved with each dose and the improvement was greater with better compliance. Vitamin A supplementation with 200,000 IU every 4 months over 13 months improved vitamin A status and school attendance but not anthropometric status of these children.