Health, nutrition and welfare officials in the country hope to improve the overall nutritional status of Filipinos by 2022 by launching the official Philippine Plan of Action on Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022.

The PPAN 2017-2022 is a results-based plan of action to stem the progression and improve Filipino problems on nutrition such as wasting, stunting, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight and obesity.

PPAN is a response to a landscape situational analysis of nutrition in the country which indicated that malnutrition in various grounds remained high, according to the NNC.

The nutrition plan is crucial in the attainment of the United Nations-established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically the number 2 clause which calls for ending hunger, achievement of food security, and improved nutrition. The plan of action is likewise a part of the Philippine Development Plan.

The National Nutrition Council (NNC), Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Social Welfare (DSWD) formally launched the PPAN in Iloilo City on May 2.

“We are therefore at a crossroads where decision and actions must be made that will have an impact on our children and the children of the future,” Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial said, as quoted from Rappler.

Malnutrition in various forms

According to a 2015 National Nutrition Survey supervised by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), 33.4 percent (3.8 million) of children were suffering from growth stunting while 7.1 percent (807.057) are wasted. While these are commonly-cited problems when mentioning “malnutrition,” the NNC also mentioned they need to counter overweight and obesity problems among Filipino adults.

UNICEF, in 2016, noted that the Philippines, along with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, is facing the double burden of malnutrition. Obesity rate among children aged below 5 years escalated to about 400 percent from a mere 1 percent in 1992. The rise is highly attributed to diet that is high in processed ingredients, sugar and fat, as well as a sedentary lifestyle.

The Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight and Obesity Inc (PASOO) in 2014 noted that 3 out of 10 Filipinos are overweight or obese.

The incidence of obesity is more common in the 40-49.9 age group and least prevalent among those aged 70 and above. The report also noted there are more obese female than male. Stress leading to comfort eating, increased portions of unhealthy food, and sedentary lifestyles were cited as causes.

In addition, “Micronutrient deficiency which adversely affects a child’s survival also remains a public health concern,” according to the proponents, citing 24.8 percent of pregnant women are nutritionally at risk due to iodine deficiency disorder.  

“The cost of malnutrition greatly affects the country’s economy with a total loss of Php 328 billion in 2013 due to impacts of child stunting on education and productivity,” they added.

PPAN targets

The updated PPAN will be in place for 6 years – until 2022, and by then, the proponents hope to reduce wasting from 7 percent to less than 5 percent, and stunting to 28 percent, decrease micronutrients deficiencies, and halt the increase in overweight rates.

Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial, also a member of the governing board, said that the PPAN is the country’s bible for nutrition, and it will also support the World Health Assembly Global Targets in improving maternal, infant and young child nutrition by the year 2025.

Additionally, Secretary Ubial noted that “15 to 20 years from now, these stunted children, if they survived, will enter the workforce and instead of driving the engine of the economy will become the burden of society, and because malnutrition permeates into the next generation the cycle continues.”

Strategies

PPAN’s strategic thrusts include the First 1,000 Days of Life, the provision of complimentary nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes, mobilization of local government units to reach geographically-isolated and disadvantages areas (GIDA) as well as indigenous people.

According to a PPAN draft for 2017-2022, the plan will include a team of consultants, key informant interviews, focus group discussion, inter-sectoral consultation and national consultation.  

PPAN Programmes

The updated PPAN comes with eight nutrition-specific programmes meant to address the immediate causes of malnutrition such as scant food supply, lower nutritional intake, poor care giving and parenting practices, as well as infectious diseases.

The programme will include immunization, de-worming, food and agriculture systems, conditional cash transfers, as well as a lifestyle-centred approach (school intervention, breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, community-based health food environment, and workplace).

“This will be complemented by the nutrition-sensitive programmes which are already existing developmental programmes that can be tweaked to produce nutritional outcomes,” noted the PPAN in a briefing.

Higher budget

In April, a total of Php 8.9 billion has been added in the government spending programme this year to fund two nutritionally inclined initiatives which were projects of Senator Grace Poe, according to the Philippine Star.

The initiatives are meant to create a free feeding programme in all public schools and provide support for children up to two years old.  

The feeding programme, to be implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd) will need Php 4.2 billion, while the supplementation programme, as managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, will need Php 4.4 billion.

A total of Php 294 million has been allocated to the First 1,000 Days Program, managed by both the DOH and NNC.

“We have supported these nutrition programmes of the government and our next step is to institutionalize them though legislation to make these programmes permanent,” said Senator Poe.

Recently, Senator Sonny Angara filed Senate Bill No. 136 or the First 1,000 Days Act, intended to provide health and nutritional support to mothers and their newborns starting from nine months up until the child’s 1,000th day.

SB No. 136 seeks to improve breastfeeding practices, establish feeding programmes, and improve protection against malnutrition and diseases. MIMS

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