It requires collaboration and transformative nutrition care

Food is important. It nourishes us so that children an grow healthy while adults can maintain good health. Not getting enough nutrition can leave children malnourished and can even lead to serious health conditions.

Malnutrition can affect both adults and children. And, unknown to many, this doesn’t affect poverty-stricken areas only. Signs include stunting where children fall below the healthy height. There is a report of an estimate of 149 million children below five years old are stunted. Second is underweight that is based on BMI (body mass index). Reports reveal that there are 462 million who are underweight. Third is wasting which means they are below the healthy weight. Forty-five million have been reported to be wasted. And at the opposite end are overweight and obese where people are above the ideal healthy weight. 1.9 billion adults are overweight, while 39 million children under five years old are overweight.

Twenty-nine percent of all Filipino children under five years old have been revealed to have stunted growth. This was based on a recent 2021 study on undernutrition in the Philippines that has been conducted by the World Bank. This places the country in fifth place among Asia Pacific countries and among 10 countries globally. UNICEF also revealed that a third of Filipino children are stunted.

With the rise of income and urbanization, we are experiencing both malnutrition and obesity issues. An estimate of USD3.5 trillion a year is spent on malnutrition. “Slowed growth is not just a physical issue. It also impacts learning and development in childhood,” says Dr. Jose Rodolfo Dimaano Jr., medical affairs director for Abbott’s nutrition business in Pacific Asia.

Children are vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition, impacting their cognitive and physical growth. Poor nutrition can lead to deficits in energy, protein or micronutrients; and it can negatively affect physical growth, intellectual development and academic attainment. Being obese can lead to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. And the diagnosis gets younger and younger each year.

Photo by Yannis H on Unsplash

Malnutrition arises when there is food insecurity and lack of access to healthy food. There’s also the shift to convenient and on-to-go eating options that are mostly unhealthy with few nutrients and more calories. It has also been made worse with the pandemic that disrupted the global food supply chains. It’s estimated that an additional 83 to 132 million people globally will face undernourishment as a result of the pandemic. Staying at home, scared to go out, has also brought problems of being able to identify and treat undernourishment, particularly in children who are not seen and checked by healthcare professionals.

Here’s how we can solve this global problem. It requires collaboration across key stakeholders such as government, non-profits, private and public organizations, and community groups to reach the people who are most
affected. Solutions come in many forms — including research, education, nutrition interventions and
policy changes — and must be relevant to the local and regional needs.

The Abbott Nutrition Health Institute’s Global Growth Summit is an annual event that brings together the world’s top experts to share best practices and the latest trends in nutrition as part of a collaborative effort to address challenges in childhood growth and nutrition. While in the Philippines, the Growth Watch campaign was launched with an aim to raise awareness among families and communities to holistically address stunting and malnutrition in children. Through this, the company will roll out different programs to reach 70,000 parents across the country and to inform them about the lifetime effects of stunting on their children if not detected as early as possible.

Growth Watch provides measurement tools and educational materials through a series of activities to help parents
support their children’s growth. These include online resources such as the child height predictor, the augmented reality growth filter, and the PediaSure Plus height chart that will enable parents to conveniently track and monitor their child’s growth.

A collaborative approach to healthcare, along with the best healthcare solutions (nutritious food, universal nutrition screening, education, intervention, ongoing research, and innovation) will help reach the people who need them and lead to better health outcomes. This is the goal of 2030 Sustainability Plan—to improve the lives of more than three billion people by decade’s end, and that is through global initiatives on improving access to nutrition, intervention and education that leads to healthier communities.

Source: Manila Bulletin (