Investing In Salt

by Joshua Foust on 12/17/2006 · 6 comments

Yesterday’s New York Times had an interesting article about how Kazakhstan has been improving its children’s health through the widespread adaptation of iodized salt.

In fact, Kazakhstan has become an example of how even a vast and still-developing nation like this Central Asian country can achieve a remarkable public health success. In 1999, only 29 percent of its households were using iodized salt. Now, 94 percent are. Next year, the United Nations is expected to certify it officially free of iodine deficiency disorders.

That turnabout was not easy. The Kazakh campaign had to overcome widespread suspicion of iodization, common in many places, even though putting iodine in salt, public health experts say, may be the simplest and most cost-effective health measure in the world. Each ton of salt needs about two ounces of potassium iodate, which costs about $1.15.

Worldwide, about two billion people — a third of the globe — get too little iodine, including hundreds of millions in India and China. Studies show that iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. Even moderate deficiency, especially in pregnant women and infants, lowers intelligence by 10 to 15 I.Q. points, shaving incalculable potential off a nation’s development.

Tangentially interesting is that most of the salt comes from the dried seabed near Aral—a hugely unintended positive of the sea’s demise under Khrushchev.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Borat December 18, 2006 at 9:53 pm

Good stuff. Uncle Nazzy was wise enough to get rid of IMF and World Bank “reformers” in time. Now Kazakhstan is moving full steam ahead towards economic prosperity.

brian December 18, 2006 at 11:40 pm

With international (mostly US) help to set up the iodine program, purchase the equipment and run the public relations campaign, of course.

Just think what would have happened if America hadn’t meddled, Kazakhstan would be a country of supermen by now. School kids would be able to recite Pi to 500 decimal places.

Borat December 19, 2006 at 5:03 am

if America hadn’t meddled, Kazakhstan would be a country of supermen by now. School kids would be able to recite Pi to 500 decimal places.
The sordid fact of life is that there is no successful country on the Mother Earth after IMF and WB reforms. Noone. Even IFI execs admit that. Simple as that. Russia also also started improving exactly after getting rid of IMF consultants. Correlation seems to be clear. No need to learn intricacies of Econometrics or Macroeconomics. Start from simple things. Fire consultants. Hire me, Borat.

Nathan December 19, 2006 at 8:50 am

Lord have mercy on whoever solicits your “sage” advice.

Seriously though man, you need to stay on topic. Not everything is about the World Bank or the IMF. You’re unhinged. Iknow the wicked IFIs haven’t stolen all your country’s hinges yet, so please get one if you plan to keep commenting.

Brian II December 19, 2006 at 10:01 am

It is mostly true that Russia started improving after it ‘faced the music’ and devalued the rouble in 1998. There was a substantial crisis that led up to that point; generated mostly by the out-of-control spending/selling off of state assets by the Russians themselves. But fairly (and unlike Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), the Russians did make financial reforms – and the Kazakhs did the same shortly thereafter.

I just wanted to add that it is refreshing that the NYT has chosen to publish something remotely positive about Kazakhstan. It gets tiring reading about the Giffen trial, the autocracy, blah blah blah. Were I not based in the region, it would sound as hopeless as some sub-Saharan African countries with evil dictators and inept bureaucrats. The fair truth is that Kazakhstan is very, very far from that.

Hahira December 20, 2006 at 11:38 pm

There was an interesting research by Richard Lynn ”IQ and the Wealth of Nations”

the World’s top 10 nations with highest avg IQ.

Hong Kong (PRC) 107
South Korea 106
Japan 105
Taiwan (ROC) 104
Singapore 103
Austria 102
Germany 102
Italy 102
Netherlands 102
Sweden 101
Switzerland 101

The book includes the authors’ estimates of average IQ scores for each country, based on their analysis of published reports; their observation that national gross domestic product per capita is correlated with IQ; and their conclusion that the IQ differences correlated with income differences by a factor of about 0.7, meaning that IQ explains more than half of the variation in per capita GDP.

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