More families need more food even before pandemic.
The percentage of food insecure households increased significantly from 53.9% in 2018 to 64.1% in 2019, according to the 2019 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).
In a recently conducted online forum on the results of the ENNS, the DOST-FNRI, practically revealed the country’s nutrition situation before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poor equals food insecure The DOST-FNRI further reported in the forum that food insecure households were higher in rural areas, with male-headed households, poor or lower wealth status, lower educational attainment of household head, those engaged in agriculture and those with no financial assistance from family members working abroad.
The ENNS used the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) with a recall period of past month to assess household food security. A household is considered food secure if it did not experience any of the nine food insecurity experiences in the scale or it experienced worrying about food only 1-2 times in the past month. Otherwise, a household is categorized as mild, moderate or severely food insecure depending on the magnitude and severity experienced in the past month.
By life stages, there was a slight improvement in stunting prevalence from 30.3% in 2018 to 28.8% in 2019 and underweight prevalence from 19.1% in 2018 to 19% in 2019 among preschool children under-five years old, though the decreases were not statistically significant, the survey noted .
The same survey also revealed that the percentage of exclusive breastfeeding among newborns to 5 month-old babies significantly increased from 49.5% to 57.9% from 2018 to 2019, respectively.
Minimum Acceptable Diet (MAD)
However, only one in every 10 or 9.9% of 6-23 months old children met the minimum acceptable diet (MAD), which is an indicator for diet quality and quantity among young children, the survey pointed out.
MAD is defined as the proportion of children 6-23 months old meeting both the minimum dietary diversity and the minimum meal frequency to ensure both dietary and nutrient adequacy
Up and down trends
Anemia prevalence among 6-23 months old children, according to the same survey decreased from 14.3% in 2018 to 12.5% in 2019, but is still considered of moderate public health problem.
Among school-age children 5-10 years old, underweight, stunting and wasting prevalence slightly increased from 2018 to 2019, though not statistically significant.
Overweight and obesity prevalence also declined form 11.6% to 8%, while anemia prevalence also decreased from 13.5% to 10.7% from 2018 to 2019 for the same survey period among the same age group.
Nutritional status of adolescents
About one in every 4 or 26.8% of adolescents 10.08 to 19 years old were stunted in 2019, which was more prevalent among the poor.
There was also a decrease in the prevalence of overweight and obesity Among adolescents from 11.6% to 9.8% from 2018 to 2019.
Meanwhile, in terms of lifestyle-related risk factors, about 8 in every 10 adolescents were physically inactive, 3 in every 100 were current smokers, and 13 in every 100 were current alcohol drinkers in 2019.
Anemia was considered a “mild” public health problem among adolescents at 5.8% in 2019.
Lesser anemic mothers, lesser anemic babies
Anemia prevalence among pregnant and lactating women decreased from 2018 to 2019, from 26.1% to 19.9% among pregnant women, and 14.4% to 11.6% among lactating women.
Among adults, 20 years old and above, the prevalence of elevated blood pressure (BP) continued to decline from 19.2% in 2018 to 17.5% in 2019.
More sweet tooth
In contrast, the prevalence of high fasting blood sugar (FBS) or diabetes with FBS of more than 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) continues to rise from 7.9% to 8.2% from 2018 to 2019.
Moreover, impaired FBS or pre-diabetes increased more than three-folds over the past decade, from 2.7% in 2008 to 9.1% in 2019.
Double burden of malnutrition
Overweight and obesity were still prevalent among one in every 3 or 36.0% of Filipino adults.
There was a slight increase in the prevalence of chronic energy deficiency (CED) among the elderly, 60 years and over, from 13.4% to 15.2%.
Anemia prevalence among the elderly declined from 20.2% in 2018 to 16.9% in 2019.
Elevated BP and high FBS among the senior citizens did not differ from 2018 to 2019, but prevalence rates were high at 34.4% and 13.7%, respectively.
Overall, there was a slight improvement in the nutritional status among Filipinos in 2019, with a decreasing trend of stunting among children, although not statistically significant, as well as decreasing trend of overweight and obesity across all age groups.
There was also an improvement in anemia prevalence with a decrease in prevalence from 2018 to 2019 across all age groups.
However, household food insecurity remains high.
Likewise, the increasing trend of diabetes among adults and no significant change in lifestyle-related risk factors still need to be addressed.
With the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in the country and in the whole world, there is fear that these improvements might revert back.
Challenge amidst pandemic
Thus, the challenge for policymakers and program implementers is to mitigate hunger and malnutrition amidst the pandemic by keeping food supply available and accessible to all households.
Other urgent interventions must include promoting sustained breastfeeding among infants, providing appropriate complementary and supplementary food among preschool and school-age children, and reducing lifestylerelated risk factors among adolescents, adults and elderly.