According to the report produced by the AED Center for Nutrition and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in 118 countries; anemia caused by iron deficiency affects as many as two thirds of children and pregnant women in some countries. Iodine deficiency affects around 13 per cent of the world's population; and 20 per cent is at risk of zinc deficiency. And deficiencies do not just affect the developing world: folic acid deficiency, which has been linked to increased risk of neural tube defects in unborn infants, remains a big problem in some developed countries - particularly those with no mandatory food fortification program. Addressing the problem is a challenge for governments, global organisations and businesses - particularly those in the health and nutrition sector who have considerable expertise in the area and products that could contribute to a solution. "Millions of people are still affected by malnutrition, despite the availability of proven, cost-effective interventions," said AED VP and report co-author Jean Baker. "We hope this report spurs action to significantly reduce rates of malnutrition around the world." The report, entitled Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies: A report for the Ten Year Strategy for the Reduction of Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies, will be discussed at the forthcoming Global Micronutrient Forum, taking place in Istanbul next week. The report sets out key actions as part of the global ten-year strategy. The initial focus, it says, should be on regions and countries with the highest number of deficiencies and the greatest prevalence - especially those where the intervention is most likely to have a rapid impact. Supplementation and fortification are presented as two core intervention approaches, taking into consideration that people receive micronutrients through various channels. "Food fortification and supplementation have proved successful in diverse settings," sai co-author Tina Sanghvi of AED, "and promising new approaches such as bio-fortification are emerging." The nutritional status of women of reproductive age, the very young and the very poor are seen as priorities; as is a link with food security and other food indications as needed. Coverage of marginalised communities should be assured through district-wide approaches like intensified outreach and social mobilisation. In particular, the commercial private sector is seen as a channel for delivery to the urban poor. Moreover, government entities should be supported in harnessing private sector expertise, market channels and interest in contributing to social objectives. Capacity for long-term institutionalisation of effective strategies should be built. Countries' databases and diagnostics should be strengthened so as to develop best intervention mixes to guide policy and program choices. Trends in consumer demand for micronutrient-rich foods and potential vehicles for fortification should be tracked. Finally, the report says there is a need to explore in more detail the modus operandi of key institutions that can facilitate international support for micronutrient programs, expand this support to recipient countries, and form a coordination mechanism.