DOH launches blueprint to curb nutrition deficiencies among Filipino children

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(CNN Philippines, May 2) — Reducing child stunting, lowering micronutrient deficiency in children under five, and curbing obesity among teenagers are the goals of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022 launched here Tuesday.

An initiative by the Department of Health and the National Nutrition Council, the PPAN 2017-2022 serves as a blueprint for nutrition intervention in the Philippines.

In a 2015 study by the Food Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology, 21.5 percent of Filipino children under five are experiencing undernutrition, caused by lack of food or substances necessary for growth and health.

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Being underweight is one of the four indicators of undernutrition, with the other three being stunting, which is defined as being of low height for one's age; wasting, which is having a low weight for one's height; and low birth weight.

The six-year plan aims to lower the number of stunted children under five to 21.4 percent in 2022 from 33.4 percent in 2015.

It also involves reducing the prevalence of children suffering wasting to less than five percent in 2022 from 7.1 percent in 2015.

Another goal is to address the top micronutrient deficiencies in the country: Vitamin A deficiency, anemia caused by lack of iron in the bloodstream, and iodine deficiency disorders.

The plan also aims to keep at low levels the percentage of overweight children at 3.9 percent or less, and lowering obesity among adolescents and adults.

Of the Philippines' population of some 100 million, one-third of 32.7 million are children, based on the Philippine Statistics Authority figures in 2015.

Programs under the PPAN 2017-2022 aim to reach 90 percent of the target population, says the health department.

"The percent of the target group that should be reached by a service, are being targeted at about 90 percent of the population group," to be able to achieved "reduced mortality and stunting at significant levels," the PPAN report report said.

"An exception though is the program on obesity for which the target has been set to 50 percent of the target population." it added.

The PPAN 2017-2022 is in line with the Millennial Development Goals of the United Nations to end hunger, to achieve food security and improved nutrition, and to promote sustainable agriculture.

It is also considered an integral part of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 and the Duterte administration's 10-point economic agenda, the Department of Health said.

Assistant Health Secretary Maria Bernardita Flores, also the executive director of the NNC, identified the province of Iloilo as one of the 38 priority areas of the program because of its high number of stunted children.

Cases of undernutrition among pre-school children in Western Visayas dropped for six consecutive years.

In data released by the National Nutrition Council, undernutrition in the region dropped to five percent in 2016, from 5.58 percent a year ago, and 7.59 percent in 2011.

Iloilo-based journalist Elyrose S. Naorbe contributed to this report.