Monday, November 3, 2008

Building Health through Proper Nutrition

Posted on Behalf of Kathryn Osborn

While the classic picture of a bony, too-thin child or adult comes to mind when many think of malnutrition, the condition actually has three very different faces: those of the under-nourished, the over-nourished, and the micronutrient deficient.

Under-nutrition, affecting 25% of children world-wide under the age of 5, is related to under consumption of adequate calories. Conversely, over-nutrition is often related to over consumption of daily calories, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. Today, 155 million school age children around the world are severely overweight.

The third and final “face” of malnutrition is that of the micronutrient deficient – a condition related to inadequate intake (or absorption) of the right vitamins and minerals needed by the body’s organs to work properly. Such deficiencies are the cause of goiter, scurvy, and some forms of blindness.

Frequently, under-nutrition stems from a lack of money to purchase food of adequate quantity or quality, frequent illnesses (especially HIV and TB) and poor nutritional practices (menu planning).

Poor nutrition of any type is the catalyst for many different health problems. It reduces an individual’s ability to fight diseases and support proper organ function. Unfortunately, each of these also further reduces the ability to absorb essential nutrients – leading to poor nutritional status.

Children International focuses primarily on the issue of under-nutrition within our population. Our agencies address short- and long-term needs of families through 1) supplementary feeding of undernourished children, helping them to gain adequate weight and 2) nutrition education for parents of sponsored children, sharing local recipes which are low cost and highly nutritious.

Kathy Osborn is a Health Officer who works in nutrition and health programs for Children International. She holds a Masters in Public Health (MPH) from George Washington University, with a concentration in global health, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Marine Science from the University of Miami. Prior to joining Children International, Kathy worked in major sustainable livelihood, nutrition, health and education initiatives in Uganda and in Washington, D.C.

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