Health services should focus more on nutrition to address all aspects of malnutrition, especially underweight and overweight, according to a new report by World Health Organisation. “The Essential Nutrition Actions” publication is a compilation of actions which can serve as a tool for countries to integrate nutrition interventions into their national health and development policies. It is estimated that the right investment in nutrition could save 3.7 million lives by 2025.
The world has made progress in nutrition but major challenges still exist. There has been a global decline in stunting (low height-for-age ratio): between 1990 and 2018. Obesity, however, as a major risk for many diseases, is on the rise. The prevalence of children considered overweight rose from 4.8% to 5.9% between 1990 and 2018, an increase of over 9 million children. Adult overweight and obesity are also rising in nearly every region and country, with 1.9 billion people overweight in 2016, of which 650 million (13% of the world’s population) are obese.
Health services must focus more on ensuring optimum nutrition at each stage of a person’s life. Essential health packages in all settings need to contain robust nutrition elements but countries will need to decide for themselves which interventions are best suited in their specific situation.
Key interventions include:
- providing iron and folic acid supplements as part of antenatal care;
- delaying umbilical cord clamping to ensure babies receive important nutrients they need after birth;
- promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding;
- providing advice on diet such as limiting the intake of free sugars in adults and children and
- limiting salt intake to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.