Growth Watch Month to address stunting among children

12 Jun 2023 03:20pm
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The Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) launched a programme called Growth Watch Month to bring healthcare professionals and parents together to prevent stunting in children and adolescents so they may attain their full growth potential for a brighter future.

The annual nationwide event, which began in 2012, is done in collaboration with partners like the Malaysian Medical Association, Malaysian Family Medicine Specialists' Association, Malaysian Association of Kindergartens, and Malaysian Association of Registered Early Child Care and Development.


IMFeD Growth Programme chairman Professor Dr Lee Way Seah said the Growth Watch Month is largely dedicated to identifying children and adolescents who are either stunted or at risk of stunting. Through relevant activities, the organisers will advise their parents on the appropriate nutritional interventions and support needed to get their children’s growth back on track.

"While the majority of Malaysian children and adolescents are growing normally, childhood stunting remains a concern for the rest of them," he said.

During its launch recently, it was revealed that by the age of 5 years, children are supposed to attain 60 per cent of their adult height. Sadly, based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022, 21.2 per cent or 1-in-5 was stunted.

NHMS 2022 also reported that 6.8 per cent of our adolescents were stunted. These individuals were not experiencing the full benefit of growth spurts that would bring them another 15 to 20 per cent closer to potential adult height.

The short and long-term effects of stunting are clear. Stunted children tend to fall sick more often, miss opportunities to learn, perform less well in school, and have lower self-esteem. They are also at risk of becoming stunted in adulthood as well – a condition that is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, decreased economic productivity, and lower lifetime-earning potential.

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“We need to nip stunting in the bud. It always starts with growth faltering. This is when children are not receiving enough nutrition so their growth rate literally ‘slows’ down.

“Without adequate energy, protein, fats, and micronutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and so on, their bones and muscles will not be able to develop at a healthy rate," said Dr Lee.

Growth faltering can occur at any time during childhood and adolescence and tends to be so gradual that it often goes undetected. Over time, the children may never be able to recover their height and end up becoming permanently stunted adults with a significant disadvantage in life.

Dr Lee stressed that optimal growth can only be achieved when certain fundamentals are present, namely, good feeding practices, optimal nutrition, adequate physical activity that is appropriate for age, and regular growth monitoring from young.

He added: “We also encourage parents to bring their children aged 1 to 17 years old to get their growth checked by a healthcare professional who has been trained to use our M-I-M approach.”

The first M refers to ‘Measure’. This step involves taking the children’s weight and height and plotting the measurements onto WHO growth charts to ascertain whether the children’s growth fall in the normal, at-risk, or stunted ranges.

The letter “I” comes next. If the children are stunted or experiencing growth faltering, we need to ‘Identify’ the underlying cause. Common factors causing growth faltering in children are malnutrition, unhealthy lifestyle habits, underlying medical conditions, poor parenting skills, or a combination thereof.

Finally, the healthcare professionals would be ready to ‘Manage’ the situation. Interventions may involve adequate and appropriate nutrition, improving parenting skills, and encouraging healthy lifestyle behaviour.


Parents and caregivers will also be able to enjoy a series of four lively Parents Forums, broadcast live over Zoom, and".

-Featuring a celebrity host and members of the IMFeD For Growth Expert Panel, the forums will cover topics including:

-Feeding, Nutrition And Growth For Tiny Tots

-Helping Children Shine In School

-Nurturing Growth Through The Teenage Years

-Parenting Tips For Healthy Children

The IMFeD For Growth Annual Screening Campaign will also take place from August to November 2023 in all IMFeD clinics listed on