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6-23 months identified as critical age for averting childhood malnutrition


MORE TRAINING for mothers and accessible natal care will help mitigate stunted growth and malnutrition in children, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said.

“We have examined the possible trajectory of child stunting should key nutrition and health interventions be universally implemented. Maternal nutritional status and education factors, quality of prenatal and postnatal care, and diets of young children 6-23 months explain the large socio-economic disparity,” PIDS said in a study released on Wednesday.

“For the country to achieve significant decline in the prevalence of stunting, it requires large and sustained investment in the medium to long term, particularly investment in improving the diets of children 6-23 months and promotion of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices,” it added.

About a third of Filipino children are stunted or chronically malnourished, according to the study.

“Filipino children are failing to reach their growth potential compared to children living in other countries. In 2019, about 29% of under-five children are stunted, way above the average prevalence for upper-middle-income countries,” it said.

Maternal education must be implemented to address stunting and reduce the socio-economic gap, PIDS said.

“Mothers with higher education will then be more aware and equipped with information on how to improve their own nutritional status, better child feeding and rearing practices, and may also have better jobs and income, which in turn will have an impact on child’s nutrition,” it added.

The government should also provide equal access to quality prenatal care.

“Having access to quality prenatal care services will result in the close monitoring of nutrition of the mother during pregnancy and she may be provided with interventions that would improve her and the child’s nutrition status,” PIDS said.

“Interventions to improve the child’s nutrition status that have a large impact on the reduction of the aggregate stunting prevalence is the improvement of the child’s diet during 6-23 months and optimal IYCF practices,” it added.

The government think tank cited the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and age-appropriate complementary feeding as examples.

“In general, non-poor mothers are less likely to have a stunted child because they have relatively good nutrition status, good education, and access to quality prenatal care. Hence, equitable allocation and implementation of key health and nutrition intervention is critical,” it said.

“Focusing on (these) domains and packaging it as a continuum of interventions, and prioritizing malnutrition in the government’s broader multi-sectoral development agenda is recommended,” it added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

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