Dr. Hetzel is a world leader on the understanding of the adverse effect of iodine deficiency on brain development. He coined the term “Iodine Deficiency Disorders” to increase awareness of harmful effect of iodine deficiency on the brain function rather than endemic goiter. He is also a key figure to promulgate global actions to control of iodine deficiency disorders.
Dr. Hetzel’s team demonstrated the effect of iodine deficiency of brain development. He showed that severe iodine deficiency which led to maternal and fetal hypothyroidism caused endemic cretinism and mentaol retardation. This serious illness can be prevented by providing iodine to reproductive age women before conception. Studies also showed that the IQ of children in areas of iodine deficiency decreased by 13.5 points in comparison to those without iodine deficiency.
Dr. Hetzel developed the use of iodized oil injections for the correction of severe iodine deficiency and showed that the effects on the brain could be prevented. This method has now been applied on a massive scale in Asia, Africa and Latin America with over 100 million doses being given.
In 1986, Dr Hetzel initiated and became Executive Director of the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) which worked closely with World Health Organization and UNICEF. A Global Action Plan, proposed by the ICCIDD, for the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders by the year 2000 was accepted by the United Nations Agencies and by the World Summit for Children. This work has effect billions of children at risk.