Experts brainstorm on role of nutrition in first 1000 days of life
Nutritionists and medical practitioners are unanimous that investments in nutrition are some of the most powerful and cost-effective in global development.
They said good nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday is crucial to developing a child’s cognitive capacity and physical growth, and ensuring a child receives adequate nutrition during this window can yield dividends for a lifetime, as a well-nourished child will perform better in school, more effectively fight off disease and even earn more as an adult.
These were the verdict of participants including nutritionists, journalists and top officials at the Nestle Nutrition Media Workshop held at the training centre of the company’s factory in Agbara, Ogun State.Entitled, “Good Nutrition: A Way of Life” the workshop aimed at reinforcing nutritional knowledge of media professionals in order to improve their reporting in this area.
President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN),Dr. Bartholomew Brai, in his presentation said: “Nutrition matters in every stage of life, however, good nutrition from the onset is very critical. Life begins from conception and the first two years of life have been found to be a critical window of opportunity when it comes to nutrition. As this has significant impact on a child’s ability to grow and learn which in turn can also shape a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.”
Brai stressed on the need for right nutrition. He presented an overview of the nutritional challenges in Nigeria and how private and public sectors, including society and media, have to work together to address these issues and change the future positively.
Assistant Editor of The Guardian Newspapers,Mr. Chukwuma Muanya, in his presentation on “Nutrition reporting: The critical role of media people” said journalists are critical in helping to educate people on the nutrition landscape, raise awareness on potential risks and the importance of changing behaviour. He also shared examples of good practices in other countries.
The participants expressed the need of building a strong network of health reporters in Nigeria.Nestlé seized this opportunity to present to the media the actions implemented to contribute to consumers nutrition, health and wellness such as cooking classes for kids, nutrition education programmes for women and offering tastier and healthier products which are fortified with micronutrients.
Communications Manager Nestle Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA), Anglophone CWAR, Mrs. Emma-Nwachukwu, said:“In Nigeria, Nestlé sells daily over 100 million Maggi cubes fortified in iron reaching over 18 million households.
“Nestlé Healthy Kids Programme has reached over 62,000 pupils in 112 schools across four Nigerian states and through the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa, health care professionals have been empowered with nutrition information through various nutrition programmes organized by the institute.”
Meanwhile, new evidence published in The Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutritionstrengthens the case for a continued focus on the critical 1,000 day window during pregnancy and the first two years of life, highlighting the importance of intervening early in pregnancy and even prior to conception.
“Lack of appropriate feeding in early childhood is a major risk factor for ill-health throughout the course of life. The life-long impact may include poor school performance, reduced productivity, impaired intellectual and social development, or chronic diseases,” the study noted.
Professor of nutrition at Ambrose AlliUnivesityEkpoma, and former President of NSN, Ignatius Onimawo, in his presentation at Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) Conference in Owerri, Imo State, last year, expounded on “Nutrition in the First 1000 Days and Its Effects in The Development of Non Communicable Diseases.”
Onimawo concluded:“First 1000 days –optimise maternal health during pregnancy to reduce low or high birth weight plus target improved infant linear growth in the first two years will reduce adult non communicable diseases risk and improve human capital (schooling).”
Reports showed that the face of nutrition advocacy in Kenya has taken a new turn in the recent months, thanks to sustained efforts by the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance (SUN CSA) to build capacity of media practitioners to report nutrition stories. The establishment of a network for journalists reporting nutrition stories and increased media coverage of nutrition programmes are just but a few achievements realised since June 2015.
To improve media coverage of nutrition programmes, the SUN CSA recommended:
*Mobilisation of funds for research and fieldwork logistics to enable journalists to write quality stories.
*Establishment of a nutrition database accessible to journalists.
*Building the capacity of journalists to cover nutrition case studies and surveys.
*Establishment of social media accounts to enhance sharing of nutrition news.
*Initiation of a competition on for journalists reporting nutrition stories.
*Sensitisation of media editors on nutrition issues, so as to increase its coverage.
*Support to journalists to cover nutrition activities in the field.
*Nutrition actors should push for more coverage by radio stations to help address the malnutrition situation in the country. There is need to improve reporting of nutrition issues by regional radio stations especially in areas most affected by malnutrition….
*Increase efforts to use other media channels such as television and print.
*Research findings on nutrition issues attract high media interest and coverage.
*Nutrition actors should support or partner with research firms to conduct nutrition surveys and inform the public the malnutrition trends in the country.
*Address the gap in media coverage of malnutrition cases in rural areas where the problem is most prevalent.
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