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Malnutrition in Children as a Global Health Issue Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 5th, 2021

Nowadays, people around the whole world face a number of problems connected with the environment, poverty, and health. Every year, new crises and epidemics occur, challenging the government, healthcare workers, and ordinary people. Much attention is paid to research such diseases as cholera, diphtheria, influenza, and malaria and offer preventive measures like regular immunization and hygiene. However, such global health and social issue as malnutrition in children cannot be solved with the help of one vaccination or medication. Food shortage remains a serious and dangerous challenge for the citizens of many regions, including developed and developing countries. Malnutrition turns out to be a contribution to serious chronic diseases, mental health problems, and even human deaths. This paper aims to discuss pediatric malnutrition incidence, risk factors, statistics, and prevention, identify current initiatives to manage the issue, and develop new or improved suggestions with appropriate funding and positive results in the United States, South Africa, and Australia.

Incidence of Pediatric Malnutrition

Malnutrition is defined as wrong nourishment or a condition when a person is not able to receive or maintain the required number of macronutrients. Pediatric malnutrition deserves special attention because when this type of disorder is observed in children, the outcomes may influence not only their health or emotional well-being but also determine social and economic concerns. Each country has its own guidelines and interventions to deal with malnutrition. The peculiar feature of this disorder is that it is an indirect cause of more than 50% of deaths among young children (Tette, Sifah, & Nartey, 2015). Malnutrition may have different forms, including stunting (the impaired growth and development of a child with considerable deviations from the standard height), wasting (a rapid loss of body weight in regarding the height), and overweighting (an increase in weight and the inability to meet the height-weight standards).

The pediatric malnutrition situation differs in regions. According to UNICEF, WHO, and World Bank Group (2018), 151 million children are stunted, 51 million are wasted, and 38 million are overweight in 2017. Looking closer at different countries, new statistics can be found. About 10% of American children face malnutrition problems today, together with about 8% being overweighed (UNICEF et al., 2018). In Southern Africa, the situation varies and includes about 41% of the pediatric population having health problems because of malnutrition (UNICEF et al., 2018). Such regions as Gauteng, Free State, and KwaZulu have the highest number of children aged from birth to six years who are stunned, overweight, or wasted (Mabuza, 2018). Australian children demonstrate better statistics among the chosen countries with only 8% of all children being stunted or overweight in 2000 (UNICEF et al., 2018). Dengate (2016) states that about 45% of children may have the signs of malnutrition with no certain diagnoses being given. In general, more than 200 million children suffer from malnutrition annually.

Risk Factors and Statistics

The diagnosis and prevention of pediatric malnutrition become a significant focus in a variety of settings. Bouma (2017) and Mehta et al. (2013) suggest developing a uniform definition of malnutrition as it helps to identify the patients at risk, compare different studies, develop new screening tools, and analyze the impact of malnutrition treatment. Though malnutrition is known as a risk factor for many illnesses and deaths globally, it is also necessary to learn the risk factors of this disorder (Tette et al., 2015). One of the main reasons for malnutrition is low birth weight when children are not able to gain the required number of kilograms. In addition, feeding problems can increase the chances of malnutrition development (Corkins, 2017). Children under five years who have recurrent or chronic diseases, measles, or pertussis are most at risk (Tette et al., 2015). Finally, even social factors may contribute to the growth of pediatric malnutrition when young mothers and fathers cannot allow their children to take the required amount of nutrients and vitamins.

The evaluation of social factors proves the importance of different interventions. Australian mothers cannot afford themselves to cook for their children because butter and 2L milk cost about $14 (Dengate, 2016). In South Africa, only 50% of the pediatric population participates in special early childhood development programs (Mabuza, 2018). The reasons for participation remain unclear. Still, it is wrong to neglect that these feeding programs are supported by the government and offered to the students of primary and secondary schools with limited services (Mabuza, 2018). There are also many American boys and girls who want to lose their weight intentionally. Therefore, it is recommended for parents or caregivers to monitor weight changes in children. For example, the University of Michigan Health System introduced MTool to diagnose malnutrition. As soon as the results of the tool do not meet the standards between -2 to -2.99, a child is suspected of malnutrition (Bouma, 2017). This approach helps to monitor the level of proteins and calories’ needs in patients and avoid complications.

Current Initiatives

In the recent five years, several strong implications were made to manage malnutrition and find more or less effective solution to this global health issue. In Africa, the government supports the idea of free feeding programs for primary and secondary school students (Mabuza, 2018). This decision is made due to the inability to control all families and their social statuses. To be healthy and able to study or work with time, students have to begin their lives with proper feeding. The task of mothers or other caregivers is to provide a child with an opportunity to eat healthy food and add the required amount of proteins and other vitamins to the body. If families are not able to cope with this responsibility, they can address the government and receive support. Common and effective solution to such a problem among all African children may be offered without any negative consequences to be observed. The only requirement is children’s and families’ desire and readiness to participate in this program at local schools.

Another important initiative for many American mothers is based on education and communication. The delivery room is defined as a good setting to promote counseling for mothers at the early stage of a breastfeeding process (Tette et al., 2015). Nowadays, many mothers neglect real-life communication with healthcare workers and nurses, believing that they can handle everything on their own and use the Internet as the main source of information. They ask questions and receive immediate answers from different parts of the world. Still, sometimes, the benefits of a real talk are underestimated. Mothers have to discuss their concerns with real nurses and get clear instructions regarding their unique health conditions and the peculiarities of their children. Health or environmental uniqueness of the population may be not taken into account in online support. Some regions consider fruits as the main source of vitamins whilst many experts do not recommend fruits to be taken by infants. Therefore, communication in a delivery room is a good idea to support mothers and protect children.

Finally, in Australia, the government develops First 1000 Days project in terms of which future aboriginal mothers can receive care and effective treatment as soon as they know they are pregnant. Nutrition during pregnancy, as well as mothers’ well-being and comfort, determines the health of a future child. Malnutrition should not be caused by a poorly fed mother. The peculiarity of this initiative is not to support children and control their feeding processes but prevent pediatric malnutrition even before a child is born. This initiative is more than welcome in many developed and developing countries as it helps to avoid serious health complications.

Suggestions and Recommendations

My suggestion is based on personal abilities to protect children against malnutrition. It is possible to create an organization that is responsible for family planning. When two young people make a decision to create a family, they have to think about their future children. Therefore, as well as people should pay taxes to get their pensions with time, they may also contribute to their future children. These funds will be used as soon as pregnancy is stated. A mother will be receiving some money for healthy feeding. This initiative can be supported by the government and private interested organizations. The program can be organized locally or nationally. Still, better outcomes may be observed when several communities choose this suggestion and compare the results.

Another recommendation to avoid malnutrition is regular screening. Children are usually checked for infections in blood or urine. They communicate with healthcare workers, including nurses or doctors, and learn the methods on how to improve their health. Still, their weight changes and the presence or absence of proteins and calories cannot be neglected. Doctors and nurses have to consider this initiative and convince parents to fund their children’s health until it is too late to take some serious steps. Vitamin checkups should become an obligatory step in physical assessment of children.

Finally, it is even possible to create a system of fines for families whose children suffer from malnutrition. It is a part of parental neglect that has to be solved. When parents are afraid of having financial or legal problems, they become more motivated to take certain steps. Such innovation should not require additional funding. The only task is to prove the government the importance of such legalization being approved. Fines for malnutrition should have its standards and clear criteria.

Conclusion

In general, the analysis of malnutrition in children in different countries shows that this health issue has its causes and outcomes. Though malnutrition may be intended and unintended, it changes children’s lives considerably. The government and global organizations have to pay more attention to this problem and find a solution for the citizens of developed and developing countries. Nowadays, American, African, and Australian children are exposed to a variety of diseases and epidemics. The task of modern healthcare, nurses, and educators is not to make malnutrition continue taking children’s lives by offering new initiatives, engaging the government, and determining all risk factors.

References

Bouma, S. (2017). Diagnosing pediatric malnutrition: Paradigm shifts of etiology-related definitions and appraisal of the indicators. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 32(1), 52-67. Web.

Corkins, M. R. (2017). Why is diagnosing pediatric malnutrition important? Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 32(1), 15-18. Web.

Dengate, C. (2016). Huffington Post. Web.

Mabuza, E. (2018). Times Live. Web.

Mehta, N. M., Corkins, M. R., Lyman, B., Malone, A., Goday, P. S., Carney, L.,… American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) Board of Directors. (2013). Defining pediatric malnutrition: A paradigm shift toward etiology-related definitions. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 37(4), 460-481. Web.

Tette, E. M., Sifah, E. K., & Nartey, E. T. (2015). Factors affecting malnutrition in children and the uptake of interventions to prevent the condition. BMC Pediatrics, 15(1), 189. Web.

UNICEF, WHO, & World Bank Group. (2018).Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Malnutrition in Children as a Global Health Issue." July 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/malnutrition-in-children-as-a-global-health-issue/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Malnutrition in Children as a Global Health Issue'. 5 July.

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