Optimizing Early Child Development in the Primary Care Practice Setting: Pragmatic Randomized Trial of Iron Treatment for Young Children with Non-anemic Iron Deficiency

Dr Patricia Parkin, Hospital for Sick Children


The pre-school years are critical years for children to acquire early learning skills such as language, fine motor and social skills; this is termed early child development. Primary care doctors (family doctors and pediatricians) are in a unique position to identify children with health or developmental problems. Screening is the process of testing healthy people for the earliest signs of health problems, followed by treatment, with the expectation that screening will improve the health of those screened. The focus of this research is screening young children for the earliest signs of iron deficiency (low blood iron levels) followed by treatment with oral iron. Early detection of non-anemic iron deficiency presents an important opportunity to provide effective interventions and improve child developmental outcomes. Physicians in primary care settings are ideally suited to provide this screening. There are critical gaps in knowledge regarding the effectiveness of treatment for NAID, which this proposal can address.


The primary objective of the OptEC trial is to determine the effectiveness of laboratory screening for iron deficiency followed by oral iron treatment to improve developmental outcomes. This objective has been selected because the question is highly relevant to child health, is pragmatic and responsive to physician care in primary care practice settings, and is feasible and efficient to study within TARGet Kids!.