Dr Helen Mackay

How did Mackay change medicine in Britain?

At the Mothers’ she prepared an iron sulphate preparation, which the staff dubbed “Mist Helen Mackay”, and she urged that it should be given to all children suspected of iron deficiency anaemia. More than 70 years after her studies were conducted, EU legislation dictates that all manufacturers of infant formula milk must add supplementary iron to their products.

Her research was groundbreaking and transformed the understanding of how rickets and anaemia are linked to dietary deficiency. The results of her studies were published in two reports: Anaemia in Infancy: its Prevalence and Prevention (Ministry of Health, 1928), and Nutritional Anaemia in Infancy with Specific Reference to Iron Deficiency (Ministry of Health, 1931). In the 1960s, her definition of infantile anaemia was used by the World Health Organisation. She also emphasised the importance of good nutrition in childhood, and stated that “even the poorest mothers, if they realised what sort of diet they should aim at, could achieve wonders”. She believed a healthy diet for a children aged 1 to 5 years should include a pint of milk, some meat, fish or eggs, and some fresh fruit. She also though that children should be exposed to as much sunlight and air as possible.

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This page was added by Lisa Rigg on 24/03/2010.

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