Social determinants of iron supplementation among women of reproductive age: a systematic review of qualitative data


Jason M. Nagata, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94122, USA. E-mail:


Iron supplementation for women of reproductive age is a main part of an interdisciplinary strategy recommended for the control and prevention of iron deficiency and the treatment of mild-to-moderate iron-deficiency anaemia. This systematic review reports the findings from a meta-synthesis of qualitative data concerning the experiences and perceptions of iron supplementation among women of reproductive age and health service providers worldwide. Qualitative systematic review methods were used to conduct a search of published literature, define inclusion and exclusion criteria, appraise quality of studies and extract data on the use of iron supplementation among women of reproductive age. Coding, thematic analysis, reciprocal translation and line of argument synthesis were used to synthesize data. Twelve studies spanning 17 countries met inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. Seven domains emerged from the review: cultural norms and societal values including explanatory models and medical pluralism; political and socio-economic circumstances; education and communication; social organization and social relationships; health care access and supplement supply; food and nutrition availability; and adherence. In addition, 16 sub-domains are highlighted. Connecting review findings to a conceptual framework of social determinants of health highlights salient issues that policy makers must consider when adapting global iron supplementation recommendations to the local context.