How PH is winning the battle on malnutrition in sustained strides
According to global nutrition report, there has been slight progress towards achieving global nutrition targets in Asia. The report said, “The global target for overweight, stunting, and wasting among children under five years of age have several countries on course to meet it, including exclusive breastfeeding among infants aged zero to five months, which has 10 countries on course, while low birth weight and diabetes among women each have three countries on course. However, not a single country in the region is on course to meet the targets for anemia in women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years old), diabetes among men, obesity among men, and obesity among women. Twenty-seven countries in the region have insufficient data to comprehensively assess their progress towards these global targets.”
The Philippines is among the countries that are “on course” to meet one target for maternal, infant and young child nutrition. This development may be attributed in part to a nutrition program developed as a result of a national survey. The Malnutrition Reduction Program (MRP) was launched where the concerns of children six to 23 months and their mothers are being addressed through complementary feeding, nutrition education nutrition advocacy and capacity building of community workers.
This “on course” is not achieved overnight, though. The country’s fight against malnutrition has been around for decades and the Department of Science Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute continuously develops food technologies which can help improve nutrition using scientific data.
The government’s program in malnutrition, dubbed as the MRP took off based on the 2008 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) results of the DOST-FNRI, which showed the prevalence of underweight among zero to five years old children was 20.7 percent, which is considered high in magnitude and severity based from the World Health Organization cut-off points. This period is critical and proper nutrition intervention is needed to ensure proper physical and mental well-being of young Filipino children who will comprise the workforce in adult years.
In 2011, the DOST-FNRI came up with the MRP, a science-based nutrition strategy that has been helping address the high prevalence of underweight among infants and young Filipinos. It has been helping fight malnutrition, in partnership with the local government units, national government agencies, and private sector partners.
As part of the DOST’s efforts in countryside development, which include improving the health and nutrition of children, the DOST-FNRI initiated a package of intervention for children and their mothers.
This nutrition strategy comprised of complementary feeding of six months to below three years old children, and nutrition education of their mothers/caregivers that addresses child undernutrition, by encouraging the LGUs and entrepreneurs to adopt the interventions in order to localize the production of complementary foods.
The strategy involves research and implementation of a social program that will help these children in the countryside. The nutrition intervention was initially pilot-tested in four provinces with high prevalence of malnutrition among this group of young children. With the favorable results of the pilot testing in increasing the weight of children and improving the nutrition knowledge of mothers/caregivers after 120 days intervention, the MRP was rolled-out in various regions of the country with the slogan, “local technology works”.
In its commitment to continuously develop food products that help improve the nutrition of the Filipinos and help in the livelihood of entrepreneurs and in employment of community folks, DOST-FNRI came up with eight new food technologies that are ready for technology transfer.
Since the MRP roll-out over 10 years ago, a total of 16,448 children benefitted and have been a part of the complementary feeding component from 2011 to 2022.
During President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, 5,370 children five years old and below benefitted from this program.
Whatever improvements the country has made in the area of nutrition is a product of sustained government programs, based on sound data, and developed and implemented in collaboration with various government institutions, non-government organizations, civic groups, and private sector or industries. (GERALDINE BULAON-DUCUSIN)