Experts note rise in number of unhealthy kids in PH

MANILA — Health experts on Wednesday reported that more Filipino children are not growing up healthily due to poor diet, inadequate nutrition, and defective food systems.

During a media forum in Makati City, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) cited that one out of three Filipino children under five years old is stunted – they are too short for their age – while 7 percent of them are too thin for their height.

The organization also reported that a tenth of Filipino adolescents is overweight.

UNICEF Philippines representative Oyun Dendevnorov said apart from being stunted and overweight, Filipino children and adolescents have increased vulnerability to diseases due to poor health-seeking behavior, incomplete immunization, poor hygiene and care practices, and inadequate diet.

“The undernutrition facts in the Philippines are disturbing. One in three 12 to 23-month-old children suffers from anemia while one in three children is irreversibly stunted by the age of two. On the other hand, one in 10 adolescents is obese from wrong eating habits,” Dendevnorov added.

UNICEF nutrition specialist Dr. Rene Galera, meanwhile, reported that one in two children suffers from hidden hunger due to deficiencies in vitamins and essential nutrients.

“This heavy toll is made all the more insidious by the fact that hidden hunger is rarely noticed until it is too late to do anything. And, the numbers of women and children and women affected by various forms of hidden hunger are striking as UNICEF estimates that at least 340 million children are under five suffer from micronutrient deficiencies,” Galera added.

Department of Health Disease Prevention and Control Bureau officer-in-charge Dr. Anthony Calibo said undernutrition among children and adolescents could be a challenge because they have easy access to processed and sugary food, especially in schools.

“As children, they don’t know what food to ask, but depend on adults and their caregivers to know what food they need to grow healthily and avoid preventable, non-communicable diseases in the future such as diabetes and hypertension,” Calibo said.

“Driving food suppliers to do the right thing for children, building healthy food environments, mobilizing supportive systems to scale up nutrition results, and collection and use of quality data and evidence to regularly track progress are a few of the ways by which we can prioritize children’s nutrition,” he said.

National Nutrition Council executive director Dr. Azucena Dayanghirang said the national government, through the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022, is “exerting all its efforts” to address malnutrition among children.

“One of the strategic thrusts of the PPAN 2017-2022 is the focus on the first 1,000 days of life, which refers to the period of pregnancy up to the first two years of the child, wherein key health, nutrition, early education, and related services should be delivered to ensure optimum physical and mental development of a child,” Dayanghirang said. Ma. Teresa Montemayor/PNA-