|Health Leaders Endorse Major Effort to Fight Chronic Malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean|
PAHO strategy targets multiple causes of stunted growth throughout the life course
Washington, D.C., September 30, 2010 (PAHO) — Top health authorities from throughout the Americas today endorsed a major new effort to reduce chronic malnutrition, the most serious nutrition problem in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Nearly 9 million children under 5 in the Region suffer from chronic malnutrition. Some 22.3 million preschoolers, 33 million women of childbearing age, and 3.6 million pregnant women suffer from anemia. These figures are ethically unacceptable in a Region where food production exceeds the nutritional requirements of the entire population by 30 percent.
Malnutrition affects physical growth and mental development, increases the risk of illness and death and negatively affects human capital and economic well-being. In addition, malnutrition is a major factor perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Recent research suggests that malnutrition also contributes to chronic noncommunicable diseases. Low height-for-age, or stunting, is the primary indicator for chronic malnutrition and is also considered a proxy indicator for the overall living conditions of a population.
The causes of chronic malnutrition are multiple and include maternal malnutrition, poor diet, and repeated infections as immediate causes. But underlying causes such as lack of access to basic sanitation and health services, low educational levels of mothers, food insecurity, and social inequality also play major roles.
To be effective, policies and programs must address the determinants of malnutrition rather than just its effects and must intervene across the life course, rather than just during pregnancy or childhood.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) strategy approved today calls on countries to:
The strategy calls on PAHO to provide technical cooperation in all these areas to support countries’ efforts.
The PAHO Directing Council meets each year to set priorities for Pan-American cooperation in health and to guide PAHO’s technical cooperation programs in its Member States.
PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).