“Early childhood education and development” presentations filled the early morning of WUTMI’s 18th annual conference Wednesday. Facilitated by Chief Secretary Ben Graham, the day’s program began with presentation of results of the Integrated Child Health Survey by Health Secretary Julia Alfred.
The survey, which was conducted on Majuro, Ebeye, and outer islands from April through June this year, focused on nutrition during the first five years of a child’s life.
This presentation, which was initially put together for UNICEF, highlighted three child health issues and the resulting statistics integrated from the 591 surveys. The surveys found:
• 35 percent of children surveyed are experiencing stunted growth.
• 11.7 percent are underweight.
• 3.8 percent are overweight.
Expanding on the high percentage of stunting, a significant number of children are “wasted” — their weight-for-height measurements are deficient — and are suffering acute malnutrition.
The data show that dietary practices, feeding practices, domestic violence, poverty, and even the education level of the mother or primary caregiver contribute to the nutritional status of children. Despite popular beliefs, Alfred insisted that data rooted in studies conducted in Brazil, Norway, India, and California show that genetics have nothing to do with child stunting — or other health issues.
The survey shows that in the Marshall Islands, the older a child becomes, the more he or she is indulged with sugary beverages and foods that lack nutrition needed by growing children.
“The first 1,000 days of life are vital,” said Alfred. During this time period, a child’s health for their entire life is determined.
Read more about this in the November 24, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.