The nation's greatest resource is the minds of its children & why iodine deficiency is threatening this resource by Cres Eastman
Australian children continue to perform poorly compared with many other countries in international testing for literacy and mathematics. In December 2016 expressions of disappointment and outrage came from all sources with a humiliating headline in the Sydney Morning Herald of ‘Australian students fare worse than Kazakhstan in maths and science’. Governments and educators have no plausible answer for the continuing slide down the league table of Australian children in international tests. It is my proposition that we are overlooking some very simple facts and principles and not addressing the underlying problem that is hindering the development of intelligence and h
ence learning in our children. Could it be that our children are not competitive and it is not simply the result of a defective teaching system? Beginning from the ti
me of conception, we need to concentrate on the first 1000 days of life, the critical period for brain development and maturation. Any impairment of brain growth and development during this time is mostly irreversible. The World Health Organisation states quite categorically that environmental iodine deficiency, occurring during pregnancy, is the commonest global cause of impaired brain development resulting in loss of intelligence and other subtle brain disorders. Is this the problem in Australia? The evidence certainly suggests that it is.
Professor Cres Eastman AM is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Sydney Medical School and Consultant Emeritus at Westmead Hospital. He is a world-renowned endocrinologist with a primary interest in Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD). He is an international leader in projects to abolish IDD throughout the developing world, particularly Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Tibet. He was the Foundation Head of the Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Westmead Hospital.
Preventing perinatal problems by Paul Lancaster
Since the 1940s, we have seen improved survival during pregnancy and for newborn babies. Rubella vaccination effectively prevented cataracts and other birth defects due to maternal rubella. Recognition that thalidomide and other drugs caused major birth defects led to experimental work to evaluate the safety of new therapeutic drugs. Treatment of pregnant women in premature labour with corticosteroids was hugely effective in preventing deaths from respiratory distress syndrome. Other examples include prevention of Rhesus isoimmunisation, newborn screening programs, and early diagnosis of birth defects by fetal and newborn ultrasound.
Paul Lancaster worked as a neonatal paediatrician in Sydney before further postgraduate education in epidemiology and public health. He was the founding director of the National Perinatal Statistics Unit at the University of Sydney. He is currently researching the biographies of Sydney Medical School doctors and medical students who served in the Great War, including the Sydney ophthalmologist, Norman Gregg, who first noted the link between maternal rubella and birth defects.