Barriers to and Facilitators of Iron Therapy in Children with Iron Deficiency Anemia

Jacquelyn M. Powers, Margaret Nagel, Jean L. Raphael, Donald H. Mahoney, George R. Buchanan, Deborah I. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective: To characterize barriers to and facilitators of successful iron therapy in young children with iron deficiency anemia (IDA) from an in-depth parental perspective. Study design: Prospective, mixed methods study of children age 9 months to 4 years with a diagnosis of nutritional IDA by clinical history and laboratory criteria and their parents. Clinical data were obtained from the electronic health record. Semistructured interviews focused on knowledge of IDA, clinical effects, experience with iron therapies, and motivation were conducted with the parent who identified as the child's primary caregiver. Results: Twenty patient–parent dyads completed the study; 80% (n = 16) identified as Hispanic/Latino (white). Patients' median age was 23 months (50% male); median initial hemoglobin concentration was 8.2 g/dL and duration of oral iron therapy was 3 months. Parents' median age was 29 years (85% female); 8 interviews (40%) were conducted in Spanish. Barriers included difficulty in administering oral iron owing to side effects and poor taste. Facilitators included provision of specific instructions; support from healthcare providers and additional caregivers at home; motivation to benefit child's health, which was strengthened by strong emotional reactions (ie, stress, anxiety) to therapy and follow-up; and an appreciation of child's improvement with successful completion of therapy. Conclusions: Our findings support the need for interventions designed to promote oral iron adherence in children with IDA. Rather than focusing on knowledge content related to IDA, interventions should aim to increase parental motivation by emphasizing the health benefits of adhering to iron therapy and avoiding more invasive interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-208
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • adherence
  • intravenous iron
  • qualitative study
  • self-determination theory of motivation
  • transfusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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