Adequate nutrition key to healthier lives and happier homes
Good nutrition, especially in childhood, is vital in ensuring the healthy survival of every child as they grow into the next phase of their life–adulthood.
Children that have access to good nutrition in their formative years, can grow, develop, learn, and have the prospect of a fulfilling life.
On the other hand, malnourished children are often deprived of achieving their fullest potential, and at scale, this can have drastic consequences for nations.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2020, 149.2 million children under the age of 5 were stunted (too short for their age) and 45.4 million were wasted (too thin for their height).
At the same time, 38.9 million children were overweight (too heavy for their height).
These are indicators of malnourishment in children and describe the magnitude and patterns of under and overnutrition, increasing the risks of obesity and non-communicable diseases.
Studies from developing countries suggest that undernourished children are at significant risk of weakening growth in the first couple of years of their lives.
Inadequate nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can stunt their growth, impact their cognitive development, and reduce school performance. In the long term, these children may have smaller adult stature and lower productivity, among other risks.
In Malaysia, the problem of stunting among children due to malnutrition is even graver. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, 21.8 per cent of children under five were stunted, nearly 10 times the global average.
The prevalence of wasting has also increased to 9.7 per cent in the same year, while the percentage of underweight children rose to 14.1 per cent.
Given our rapidly changing lifestyles and the growing incidence of diseases, tackling the issue of malnutrition which has a long-term impact on the well-being of children is key to ensuring that they can lead healthier, stronger lives.
BRIDGING NUTRITIONAL GAPS IN MALAYSIA
While food availability, stability, and affordability have improved in recent years, Malaysia remains burdened with malnutrition.
While Malaysia ranks second place within South-East Asia on food security, in the long-term, global trends could threaten food stability within the country, leading to import dependency.
Such a situation could further worsen the current malnutrition issues faced by the country. As such, in order to identify and bridge nutritional gaps, it is essential to go beyond the traditional food security paradigm and evaluate eating patterns in the population.
This is one of the ways to drive awareness amongst the public on malnutrition and its impact on children.
As primary caregivers, parents need access to vital information that can help them make the right nutrition decisions for their children. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are crucial.
Therefore, when choosing a growing-up milk formula, it is essential to check for ingredients that can provide holistic nutrition and promote healthy growth and development.
The aim is to lay the building blocks for well-rounded development that emphasises the importance of both mental intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ).
The right growing-up milk formula should contain fundamental nutrients like calcium, protein, and carbohydrates.
Other key nutrients such as Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), milk fat globule membrane (MFGM), arachidonic acid (ARA), inositol, and choline can help with the child’s brain development and support healthy immune and respiratory systems.
At Mead Johnson Nutrition, a division of Reckitt, we believe in providing innovative and science-based nutrition solutions for parents and caregivers is a credo we strongly stand to advocate. We do this by championing vital ingredients like DHA, MFGM, and ARA.
As research and innovation continue to evolve, we foresee that a forward-looking, science-based approach will be the key to tackling the issue of malnutrition globally, regionally, and within the country. Increased focus on boosting immunity and brain development will greatly help to enhance nutrition formulations for children.
TOWARD A HEALTHIER NATION
While driving awareness amongst parents and caregivers is key, encouraging collaboration between different stakeholders is equally important to ensure the right resources.
We support partnerships with policymakers and government leaders as well as NGOs to increase public awareness.
We do this through key initiatives and events, that play an unparalleled role in promoting engagement, transparency, and continuous improvement in nutrition.
Childhood food insecurity can have a lasting impact on an individual’s health and nutrition.
Although malnutrition can manifest in different ways, the path to solving the problem is identical.
This involves adequate maternal nutrition before and during pregnancy and during lactation; encouraging diverse, balanced, and nutritious food consumption habits; and having a healthy environment.
Malaysia is experiencing the ‘double burden’ of both children wasting and stunting. There is a critical need to address malnutrition at its roots.
A concerted effort through multi-stakeholder engagements is greatly warranted to comprehensively promote healthy eating and active living, and more importantly, create a sustainable impact.
Universal school feeding can be crucial for improving nutrition for children
We believe it is critical to strengthen public nutrition education for children and adults, deliver universal school meal programs, and work to improve the nutritional status of pregnant women.
This holistic and continuous effort can build more awareness, and help to create a healthy and productive Malaysia.
This article is contributed by Reckitt.