Undernutrition, and genes, can affect children’s growth potential

Published March 18, 2021, 5:39 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

STUNTED One in every three Filipino children are considered stunted caused by undernutrition (UNSPLASH)

Insider’s 2019 report states that Filipinos are among the “shortest people on earth.” In fact, out of the top 25 countries, the Philippines ranked fifth place with the average height of 156.41 centimeter or 5 feet and one inch tall. 

Now, most of us will think that it is natural because of our race, and considering genetics, Filipinos are short. But parents shouldn’t just look at these two as the reason for our lack of height, they also need to consider other factors that stunt a child’s growth potential.

Stunting and its lifetime effects
But what is stunted really means? According to World Health Organization (WHO), stunting is “the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.” And based on the UNICEF’s report, due to undernutrition, one-third of children ages five and below in the Philippines are considered stunted.

Aside from simply growing up short in height, Concern Worldwide US 2019 report shows that stunted children are four times more likely to die than children who are not and this can also reduce IQ by as much as 11 points. It didn’t stop here. Once they grew up, stunted adults earn 22 percent less than their healthy peers can. 

Sadly, due to lack of information and awareness about stunting, the 2018 consumer survey shows that two out of three Pinoy moms are not aware that their children may be at risk of stunting or growth faltering. 

“I’m a first-time mom and I really didn’t know about this. Akala ko talaga genes lang ang labanan ng height (I really thought that it’s all because of the genes),” says celebrity mom Melissa Ricks during the press launch of PediaSure’s Growth Watch Campaign. 

The Growth Watch campaign
Growth Watch campaign is Abbott’s initiative to educated Filipinos about stunting. Through this, the company will roll out different programs to reach 70,000 parents across the country and to inform them about the lifetime effects of stunting to their children if it isn’t detected as early as possible. 

“Slowed growth is not just a physical issue. It also impacts learning and development in childhood,” explains Dr. Jose Dimaano, medical affairs director for Abbott’s nutrition business in Pacific Asia. “We launched Growth Watch to help families recognize the crucial role of nutrition in determining a child’s growth, especially in their early years. By giving access to measurement tools and nutrition education materials for children, and through the support of the community, together we can help children achieve their full growth potential. This is symbolic of our unwavering commitment to help support the health of children globally.”

The said campaign will provide measurement tools and educational materials through a series of activities to help parents support their children’s growth. These include an online resource that includes the child height predictor, the augmented reality growth filter, and the PediaSure Plus height chart that will enable parents to conveniently track and monitor their child’s growth. 

There will also be nutrition educational modules, which will be provided to schools to help educate students along with their parents on the important role of nutrition for growth. There will also be free nutrition counseling for parents by registered nutritionist dietians.

PediaSure is also working together with celebrity moms Melissa Ricks and Chesca Garcia-Kramer in educating more moms about stunting.