Topic: Infant and Child Nutrition
Delegate: Aliana Hermann-Campana
School: Williamston High School
The issue of a healthy and nutritious diet for infants and children is key in ensuring a healthy and successful future society. The rapid increase of children who suffer from malnutrition and/or are overweight is alarming. Unhealthy food directly impacts children far beyond the early years; according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) malnutrition puts children at a higher risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity to infections, and increased infections. Children who had good nutrition go on to achieve a more successful adulthood, gaining a better education outcome and often a higher income. 340 million, or 1 in 2, children suffer from deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients. The people suffering the most from malnutrition are the ones in the poorest and most marginalized communities, demonstrating how poverty is a cause of malnutrition and also a possible result since children with higher nutrition are generally more successful. While children living in poverty have higher rates of malnutrition, this does not mean that the children in high-income environments are not impacted by malnutrition and obesity. Weak policies, over-advertisement of unhealthy products, and a lack of health guidelines in schools lead to many adolescents and children learning unhealthy eating habits. Over 40% of school going adolescents consume fast-food at least once a week according to research done by UNICEF. The issue of malnutrition and obesity is widespread and directly related to poverty levels, making it incredibly urgent to find solutions that are effective and efficient.
In recent years Kuwait established a program called the Kuwait National Programme for Healthy Living. The First Five Year Plan (2013-2017) was established to address the complex issue of an unhealthy lifestyle and to attempt to provide a solution by addressing the many factors: physical, societal, and psychosocial. These factors include smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, alcohol abuse, mental illnesses, low education, dissatisfaction with status, being a member of a racial or ethnic minority, and/or being subjected to social stressors. There is high concern in Kuwait that with the rapid urbanisation and lifestyle changes that arrived with the rapidly increasing oil-wealth, the probability of chronic diseases might increase in the near future. This plan was targeted to solve the problem of obesogenic urbanization by targeting different demographics with different educational and informational techniques to instill a healthy lifestyle in the society.
The international community should follow the example of Kuwait and take steps to analyze and solve the issue of infant and child nutrition under individual governments and take into account the social, economic, and physical factors, as well as the different influences on different demographics. The most important demographic for solving infant malnutrition are the parents, because they influence their child(ren) for the most important years regarding nutrition. Educational services should be provided through the workplace and NGOs to help increase the understanding of the issue, which starts at birth. Promotion of different products through media should be regulated to some extent to reduce the exposure of young children to unhealthy habits. Among others, the stigma around breastfeeding should be addressed and reduced to help increase the chance of a healthy lifestyle for infants and children all around the globe.
- Aliana Hermann-Campana