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BULLETIN OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. 1991; 69(6):779-89.5-15% of all 3-15 year old children in the world are mentally impaired. In fact, 0.4-1.5% (10-30 million) are severely mentally retarded and an additional 60-80 million children are mildly or moderately mentally retarded. Birth asphyxia and birth trauma account for most cases of mental retardation in developing countries. >1.2 million newborns survive with severe brain damage and an equal number die from moderate or severe birth asphyxia. Other causes of mental retardation can also be prevented or treated such as meningitis or encephalitis associated with measles and pertussis; grave malnutrition during the 1st months of life, especially for infants of low birth weight; hyperbilirubinemia in neonates which occurs frequently in Africa and countries in the Pacific; and iodine deficiency. In addition, iron deficiency may even slow development in infants and young children. Current socioeconomic and demographic changes and a rise in the number of employed mothers may withhold the necessary stimulation for normal development from infants and young children. Primary health care (PHC) interventions can prevent many mental handicaps. For example, PHC involves families and communities who take control of their own care. Besides traditional birth attendants, community health workers, nurse midwives, physicians, and other parents must also participate in prevention efforts. For example, they should be trained in appropriate technologies including the risk approach, home risk card, partograph, mouth to mask or bag and mask resuscitation of the newborn, kick count, and ictometer. WHO has field tested all these techniques. These techniques not only prevent mental handicaps but can also be applied at home, health centers, and day-care centers.