Health News of Sunday, 27 July 2014

Source: GNA

Infant nutrition, crucial for healthy growth - Dietician

Infant nutrition from conception to the first two years is very crucial to the healthy growth, improved learning potential, neurodevelopment, and overall development of the child, Mrs Gladys Peprah Boateng Chief Dietician of 37 Military Hospital has stated.

She explained that the first 1000 days of life, which covers pre-pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life, has been identified as a unique window of opportunity to maximize the potential of lives.

“Adequate nutritional care during this period has proven to have long term benefits both for the individual and the nation”, she added. Mrs Peprah Boateng said this at the just ended sixth African Nutrition Epidemiology Conference on the theme “Food and Nutrition Security in Africa: New Challenges for Sustainability”.

The Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) presented a paper on “Maternal and Infant Nutrition, the first 1000 days of life” at a symposium as part of the conference. Mrs Peprah Boateng, who is a member of the NNIA, noted that, malnutrition remained an issue of immense public health concern worldwide.

“Globally malnutrition claims the lives of 2.6 million children annually. Malnourished children who survive are more frequently sick and suffer the life-long consequences of impaired physical and cognitive development”. She listed factors contributing to maternal and infant malnutrition as inadequate maternal diet, inability of the mother to mobilize and transport sufficient nutrients.

She explained that though 98 per cent of children are breastfed in Ghana as has statistics revealed, only 52 per cent are breastfed within an hour of birth, whilst 82 per cent, within 24 hours of birth, and 63 per cent exclusively breast feed for an average length of 4 months to 20 months.

Answering why many infants are not breastfed as required, Mrs Peprah Boateng listed lack of formal institutional arrangement to discuss and commit to achieve good nutrition, leading to sub-optimal collaboration between stakeholders.

“There is lack of intensive, continuous and committed nutrition education on growth promotion on a large scale, as services focus on interventions that require Vitamins A supplementation”.

She identified insufficient and irregular health budget for effective nutrition and other preventive care programmes, as a challenge and explained that a large proportion of budget for nutrition and preventive care programmes are externally funded, which are irregular and inadequate for continuous coverage.

“Commitment to timely and effective fund sourcing is a problem and due to limited resources, capacity and understanding of the causes of under nutrition, nutrition relevant actions continue to target food insecurity rather than the other contributing factors listed earlier”, she said.

Mrs. Chioma Emma-Nwachukwu, NNIA Co-ordinator, Anglophone Countries, Nestlé Nigeria, said the objective of the symposium was to provide an accessible platform and environment for institutions and individuals to obtain and share information geared towards ensuring optimum growth and development for infants, especially during the first 1000 days of life.

It was also to stimulate stakeholder pro-activity and engagement towards identifying and providing preventive solutions and strategies to stem chronic conditions, which originate during the first 1000 days of life.

Nestlé, the leading Nutrition, Health and Wellness Company, she said, was committed to promoting healthy nutrition during the first 1000 days of a child’s life, adding that, “The Company will continue to collaborate with stakeholders in academia and the health care sector to identify and provide preventive solutions and strategies to promote optimal maternal and infant nutrition.

The NNIA, an independent, not-for-profit Nestlé Nutrition Institute, engages with healthcare professionals, scientists and nutrition communities to share leading science-based nutritional education, resources and research. Its work in Africa focuses on maternal, infant and young child nutrition and health.