ODS Iron Initiative

baby eating

Table of Contents


Iron is an essential nutrient needed for growth and development. Anemia due to iron deficiency has health consequences and, for this reason, is a public health concern. At the same time, ensuring sufficient intakes of iron must be balanced by avoiding too much iron.

Iron status of pregnant women and young children (6-24 months) was the focus of two recent reports from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).  The task force experts determined that there was insufficient evidence to clarify the benefits and harms associated with screening pregnant women and young children (6-24 months) for iron deficiency as well as the benefits and harms of routine iron supplementation for pregnant women. 

Moreover, there are debates and unresolved issues related to the best measures of iron status and the appropriate cut points for establishing iron deficiency, adequacy and excess as well as questions surrounding common supplementation practices in developed countries.

NIH has a role in helping to close the research gaps identified by the USPSTF and in clarifying the scientific needs surrounding emerging nutrient concerns. In 2015, the Office of Dietary Supplements developed its Iron Initiative to prioritize the relevant research gaps with respect to clarifying benefits and harms associated with iron screening and supplementation among pregnant women and young children 6 to 24 months.

Workshop: September 28-29, 2016

Iron Screening and Supplementation in Iron-replete
Pregnant Women and Young Children

iron pills

The workshop goals were to:

  • Explore current understanding of iron homeostasis in pregnant women and in young children (6-24 months);
  • Identify the challenges associated with measuring iron status and with screening practices;
  • Consider emerging issues associated with routine supplementation of iron-replete individuals.

Workshop Agenda
Workshop Speaker Biographies

Workshop Videocast Day 1 (9/28)
Workshop Videocast Day 2 (9/29)
Workshop Proceedings - American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Nov 2017

The workshop included presentations by experts in the field coupled with panel discussions as well as the opportunity for questions and answers from the workshop audience. The workshop proceedings have been published in the December 2017 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and are available here.

Contact Us

To receive updates about the ODS Iron Initiative and other ODS programs and activities,
join the ODS email list or email ODS with your questions: ods@nih.gov.

Iron Resources

pregnant woman