Health | Combat Stunted Growth and Malnutrition with Nutrition Education

Pinggang Pinoy in Hand
Have you encountered the phrase, “you are what you eat”? As an allied health professional, this is among the phrases that help us be molded as health advocates. However, this isn’t always true for some, like, “if I eat pork, am I a pork?” or “if I eat chicken, am I a chicken?” Well, those are just for some who try to make fun of this phrase. Yet, in essence, this phrase wants to say that the food you have eaten provide the body nourishment, and whatever you have taken more than adequate will result some body nutritional abnormality. In simple words, the nutrients of the food you eat will result on your own body.
L-R: Ms. Gonzales and me
Ms. Josefina Gonzales, a science research specialist from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), an arm of the Department of Science and Technology, shared some information of the Nutrition State of the Philippines. A round table discussion for this is brought by Alaska Milk Corporation as part of their information dissemination regarding nutrition education wherein part of the discussion is a glass of milk every day.

The National Nutrition Survey is conducted every 5 years. The results show that in the Philippines, there are 1 out of 3 school children is underweight while Davao Region shows 3 out of 10 school children are underweight. There is not much of a difference and there has to be done. Underweight children is a result of undernourishment that can contribute to stunted growth, which is irreversible! Stunted growth is the condition wherein growth potential isn’t achieved.

The round table discussion has emphasized the need for nutrition education. In a way, the nutrition education will serve as a guide for parents and school children to help them understand better the needs of the body. It doesn’t always mean that a child with heavy weight is healthy.

The FNRI has developed a graphical illustration of a healthy meal, it is called Pinggang Pinoy. The plate is divided into portions of Go foods, Grow foods and Glow foods. It isn’t a replacement of any nutrition guide like the food pyramid. It is just a simple illustration of an adequate meal. There may be an argument that what is adequate is subjective, but the Pinggang Pinoy will show what an adequate plate should be. The National Nutrition Survey also showed that school children commonly consume the following: 1) rice, 2) cooking oil, 3) bread, 4) egg, 5) chicken, 6) sugar, 7) crackers, 8) cookies, 9) noodles, 10) hotdogs and sausages. The list didn’t show much appreciation of consuming milk and vegetables - which the nutrition education wanted to address also. There may also be a concern of being lactose intolerant for Calcium needs, but there are alternative sources of Calcium like the green leafy vegetables.

Nutrition Education can also be attained during Feeding Program. Yes, there are a lot of feeding program happening but nutrition education is lacking. The feeding program should be an avenue for information drive on how to prepare a healthy meal using indigenous ingredients or those readily available in the community. The feeding program should not be a single vehicle of meal consumption but it should gear towards application of knowledge for parents and children in attaining healthy meal everyday.

There has to be collaborative efforts always to combat stunted growth and malnutrition. We should also learn from our neighboring countries of how they give nutrition education like in Japan. It is part of a Japanese school children’s learning on how to prepare healthy food which also include table manners. Also, nutritionists and dietitians play a very important part in their community to give adequate nutritional facts and monitoring. If these are being emulated, the Philippines will perhaps decrease the numbers of stunted growth and malnutrition.

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