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Western China Becomes Focus of Iodine Deficiency Battle

Chinese health authorities have greatly reduced the incidence of iodine deficiency, but much work is still needed at provincial and county level, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

"In some areas, especially in western regions, measures to fortify salt with iodine have not been sufficiently completed," said ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an.

In Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan, Chongqing, Gansu and Hainan, iodine deficiency still existed and only 87 percent of the counties monitored use iodized salt, Mao said.

China has 720 million people living in iodine-deficient regions. The government started an iodized salt program in 1995.

After ten years, access to iodized salt had greatly increased and nutrition levels had improved, Mao said.

A survey by the Ministry of Health last year showed 90.2 percent of Chinese used iodized salt.

He said western China would be the focus for prevention of iodine deficiency, and authorities would strengthen efforts to reduce the gap between the national and western rates of iodine deficiency.

(Xinhua News Agency May 11, 2006)

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