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What is the latest in the nutrition situation of the Philippines? Are we expecting a better scenario or has the situation worsened?

The 2019 National Nutrition Summit held on June 25, 2019 at Dusit Thani Manila presented the Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) Year I results with the theme “What does the 2018 data say: Are we In or Out?

The Summit was attended by 250 participants from government, non-government organizations and the private sectors, international development organizations, local government units (LGUs), the academe, the industry and FNRI staff.

DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, in his keynote speech, mentioned the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) particularly SDG 2 and 3 to which DOST-FNRI subscribes to in terms of  planning, targeting and implementing food and nutrition  research and development (R&D) and science and technology (S&T) programs and projects aimed at solving malnutrition in the Philippines.  SDG2 is on ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. SDG3 is on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. Further, DOST Secretary de la Peña informed the participants of the different DOST programs and interventions that are available for the people.   He suggested that the ENNS results be available on line. He also cited national policies and programs which were crafted using past nutrition survey results. He ended with information on DOST breakthroughs worth looking forward to make people’s life comfortable.

 DOST-FNRI Director Dr. Mario V. Capanzana presented the evolution of the national nutrition survey (NNS).  The NNS is a comprehensive survey conducted every five years. In between the five-year period, the Updating Survey of the Nutritional Status of Children and Other Population Groups is conducted every 2 to 3 years to rapidly assess the nutrition situation of Filipinos. It aims to provide scientific data on the nutritional and health status of Filipinos for planning nutrition and development programs and for timely policy decisions at the national, regional, provincial and highly urbanized city (HUC) levels.

Data and information shared during the presentations of the 2018 ENNS results answered some questions such as: Did the nutrition situation of Filipinos improve since the last survey in 2015? Or has it deteriorated further? Can we say that our efforts to combat malnutrition paid-off? Or do we need to go back to the drawing board for new solutions?

 Key findings by life stage were presented by senior staff of the Nutritional Assessment and Monitoring Division (NAMD). Among the data and information presented were on: anthropometry (prevalence of underweight, stunting, thinness and overweight among infants and young children and chronic energy deficiency among adults); infant and young child feeding (breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices). Other data presented were biochemical (incidence of anemia and iodine deficiency); clinical and health (incidence of elevated blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, insufficient physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption); food security; and maternal health.

 Dr. Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa, Scientist II and Chief Science Research Specialist, NAMD-FNRI talked how the NNS data fared with the PPAN and SDG targets? There were both good news and bad news with reference to the 2018 ENNS data compared with that of 2015 data. The good news, for instance, among children under five years old is the reduction in the prevalence of stunting from 33.4% in 2015 to 30.3% in 2018, a decrease of 1.0 percentage point per year. To meet the 2022 PPAN target of 21.4% reduction in stunting and the 2030 SDG target of zero malnutrition, a 2.2 and 2.5 percentage point decrease, respectively, in stunting per year is needed.

On the other hand, the bad news among the same group of children is the increase in the prevalence of overweight for-height from 3.9% in 2015 to 4.0% in 2018, an increase of 0.03% percentage point per year. To meet the 2022 PPAN target of 3.9% reduction in overweight for-height and the 2030 SDG target of zero malnutrition, a 0.03 and 0.3 percentage point decrease, respectively in overweight for-height per year is needed.

The observed decrease or increase in the prevalence or incidence in the nutrition indicators that give us a picture of the current nutrition situation of Filipinos show that we have yet to double, our efforts to address the nutrition problems besetting the country to meet both the targets of PPAN in 2022 and SDGs in 2030. As Dr. Agdeppa puts it, the various stakeholders involved in nutrition have to “ignite their minds and create big fire on creative and innovative strategies to address stunting; minimum acceptable diet for 6-23 months old; overweight across all age groups, anemia among women of reproductive age, median Urinary Iodine Excretion (UIE) among pregnant and lactating mothers; tobacco use, alcohol drinking and physical inactivity among adults.

The question that followed after the presentation of the ENNS results and a look at how we fared against meeting the PPAN and SDG targets is: “What can be done?” Invited representatives from the local government unit (LGU), House of Representatives, development partners and the private sector/industry shared their insights, opinions and experiences in addressing malnutrition among children and other population groups.

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