Hemoglobin analyzer aims to reduce anemia in developing regions

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Francesco Scatena
© Getty Images / Francesco Scatena

Related tags: Iron supplements, anemia

Medical products manufacturer, EKF Diagnostics, is dedicating efforts to reducing anemia rates in South America through the application of its Hemo Control hemoglobin analyzer.

The effort may lead to better responses to anemia, particularly for iron supplements.

Commenting on whether hemoglobin analyzers are used alongside the promotion and encouragement of iron supplements to reduce anemia, Katja Lemburg, Global Product Manager Hematology, EKF Diagnostics Holdings, said: “Yes, these two aspects belong together.”

“The immediate availability of the hemoglobin result from our analyzer has a motivational and educational effect on the patient as they can actually see the measurement and their result during the health check.”​ After the results of the hemoglobin analyzer have been given and explained to the patient, “iron supplementation can be recommended”. ​ 

Anemia prevalence

EKF Diagnostics is using its Hemo Control hemoglobin analyzer to help battle child malnutrition in South America by supporting the region’s public health programs. Its Hemo Control hemoglobin analyzer is used to screen and monitor anemia in children in the continent suffering from malnutrition to maintain awareness of, and manage, their iron deficiency levels.

With a population of 31 million, 22% of people in Peru live in poverty, with limited access to nutritious food. The restricted access to nutritious food is considered “at the root of widespread nutritional problems” ​such as anemia, “which remains pervasive and affects disproportionately the poorest regions and sectors of society”,​ the World Food Programme reported.

Health programs support SDGs

As organizations call for strengthened efforts in nutrition and healthcare, particularly as we move towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), organizations are advocating for national public health programs that tackle nutritional deficiencies such as anemia.

Iron deficiency is highlighted as one of the most common nutritional deficiencies, which can lead to the blood disorder, anemia to form, which can cause fatigue. As the awareness of the connection between poor nutritional status and poor health becomes more widespread, nutrition and health programs are turning to new ways such as digitalization to lower levels of anemia and battle the effects of an iron deficiency early on.

In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) published its findings on the worldwide prevalence of anemia, 1993-2005. Describing how the prevalence of anemia in developing countries was a key influence in EKF Diagnostics’ decision to launch its point-of-care (POC) hemoglobin analyzers in LATAM, EKF Diagnostics’ Lemburg revealed that in the years that followed the report, health care programs were a key way to help combat nutrition deficiencies.

Funding and support by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were implemented during the following years to combat anemia in children under five years of age, EKF Diagnostics highlighted. As a result, “infants are getting tested​” in a variety of locations, such as “school visits, campaigns at health centers and with health care teams visiting remote villages”.

“The 24 regions of Peru have up to 10 health centers, each with the need for hemoglobin analyzers to support the management of anemia in children”,​ Lemburg added. As “hemoglobin or hematocrit tests are the main blood tests used to diagnose anemia”,​ the company saw a need to support the efforts to reduce anemia.

Malnutrition prevention efforts

Centering on the continuing public health program in Peru, the ‘International Symposium: Advances in Anemia’ explored hemoglobin testing and malnutrition prevention. Several leading figures and experts on nutrition and health were in attendance to discuss the presence of malnutrition throughout South America.

A senior figure in the Peruvian Ministry of Health, Dr Juan Carlos Noguera and Mexico’s National Institute of Medical Science and Nutrition Salvador Zubiran, as well as nutritionist Marti Yareli Del Monte, gave presentations on the current nutrition issues facing the region.

The importance of increasing awareness and advancing health and nutrition interventions in South America were identified as key priorities to address chronic child malnutrition.

NutraIngredients-LATAM previously reported how Peru is focusing on raising awareness ​throughout the country. One of its core aims is to improve the country’s nutrition status by 2022 through decelerating common forms of malnutrition, which include anemia.

Anemia reduction in developing countries

Commenting on why specifically the company chose to help medical nutrition efforts in developing countries, KF Diagnostics noted: “It is a problem linked to poverty, lack of education and malnutrition and often related to diseases found in developing countries like parasites, malaria and HIV.”

Exploring the key challenges with achieving and maintaining sufficient levels of iron in developed countries, “education on iron-rich nutrition and making iron-rich food available”​ is at its core. “Health care teams can provide information on iron-rich foods that can be accessed by the local population at low costs” ​and there are provisions for “food that has been fortified with iron (like cereals or bars) or iron supplementation”​.

However, “access to areas which are often located remotely in difficult to reach territories”​ prove challenging as sometimes, when citizens are located in deserts, jungles or mountains, the nurses need to “travel by trucks, boats or walk for several hours”​.

Hemoglobin testing

With malnutrition a major cause of anemia, hemoglobin measurement offers a reliable screening tool to maximize the effectiveness of ongoing nutrition and health programs. In Peru, anemia screening programs make up a crucial element of the larger nutrition efforts, such as the Peruvian Programa Articulado Nutricional.

In Peru, a network of nutritionists and nurses from the Ministry of Health have implemented EKF Diagnostics’ Hemo Control analyzer to carry out hemoglobin testing in remote areas around the country, the company explained. Currently, the country uses approximately 8,600 of the POC Hemo Control analyzers.

Used in a variety of extreme weather conditions, EKF Diagnostics has provided analyzers for use in “coastal regions with temperatures over 35°C; to the mountains, at more than 4,500 meters above sea level and far lower temperatures; and the jungle, with its humid, hot climate”​.

Emphasizing its portability, the company highlighted that nutrition and health care workers can access hemoglobin and hematocrit test results, regardless of location. Rather than walking for hours to reach otherwise inaccessible remote mountain villages for the anemia screening program, Luis, a nurse in the Huancavelica province of Peru’s Andean region, told EKF that this enables the assessment and delivery of “the necessary nutritional supplements and fortification to prevent malnutrition in children wherever they live”, ​EKF revealed.

EKF Diagnostics’ Hemo Control analyzer delivers hemoglobin results from 25 seconds and calculates hematocrit. By adopting a photometric azide methemoglobin method EKFcan achieve a high precision (CV <2%).

Further actions to reduce anemia

Commenting on the local and national actions that are recommended in developed countries in LATAM to reduce their anemia levels, EKF Diagnostics’ Lemburg stated that anemia programs are crucial. The anemia programs need to provide:

●        Screening of the target population to capture the prevalence of anemia at the start of the program;

●        Provision of suitable health care measures to reduce anemia, which can improve nutrition or supplementation but also disease management, for example against parasitic infections;

●        Education on the consequences of anemia, for instance, children’s development and possible improvements for a healthier diet and disease prevention;

●        Long-term implementation and monitoring of anemia programs.

“Hemoglobin levels need to be re-tested and recorded on a regular basis for statistical analysis to monitor the success rate of the program,”​ EKF Diagnostics revealed.