Malnutrition: get ’em young, teach your children well and beat it


By Debra Holdren

Malnutrition is a growing concern worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 470 million adults and 200 million children suffer from some form of malnutrition globally. This can cause several developmental, social and economic issues that last for generations.

To remedy this, most people — including several experts — turn to diets, other lifestyle change and feeding programmes. But contrary to popular belief, these are often only band-aid solutions for malnutrition. An effective and long-lasting impact requires better education from a very young age.

Education shapes nutrition

Considering that education significantly heightens personal development, it makes sense that schooling should be continuous. There are many studies to prove education is a gateway to optimum nutrition. One  UK study  by Leeds University researchers effectively illustrates how educational status influences nutritional intake. With subjects from European nations, the report noted that as educational levels increased so did an individual’s nutrition status. That includes crucial elements such as iron and total folate intake. This is also why countries with higher levels of education, such as Norway, enjoy some of the most nutritionally-adept citizens.

Inversely, research shows that lack of education can cause individuals to eat poorly and fall prey to misinformation. They believe wellness fallacies that can seriously impede our well-being — as Scottish GP Malcolm Kendrick has noted regarding vitamins.

In the long run, demographics with less access to education and lower educational attainments are more vulnerable to chronic disease. What’s more, in these vulnerable groups, research shows that the majority of those most affected are women and children.

Education to improve nutrition

Thankfully, many leaders now note the role of education in nutrition and have begun efforts to address this. In Europe, the WHO European Region encourages local governments to use education as a way to teach nutrition. This includes creating modules that impart useful lessons on vitamins, minerals and enriching local cuisine.

In Africa, where 282 million people are malnourished, many public and private entities are improving remote learning to educate more children. As explained on Bridge International Academies, several countries, such as Kenya and Uganda,  require remote learning services that are much more agile. As a result, many students rely on ed-tech solutions that can work in low infrastructure areas.

Consequently, even if connectivity is poor and children are expected to work with their parents, they’re still able to access their lessons. Crucially, lessons include classes on nutrition and general wellness.

Similarly,  UNESCO has determined that good quality education creates a positive ripple effect, especially in developing nations. Thus, more educators and stakeholders are taking action in Asia.

In the Philippines, for example, local governments are integrating take-home modules into their student offerings. These are meant to make self-studies easier and more updated since each learning packet is also written with practical wellness tips that cover gardening vegetables, proper hygiene, and more.

Over in Vietnam, the local Department of Education has also started nutritional interventions via education by creating nutritional materials that children can take home to study with their families. In this way, leaders hope that children can share the knowledge with their parents who may have different or less education.

Blending all the ingredients

Although many treat malnutrition and education as separate topics, these may actually be more intertwined than is the case. By prioritising efforts to achieve education for all, the experts may finally be able to achieve universal nutrition. With better education, it is possible to improve nutrition and create a new domino effect wherein all generations, socio-economic classes and genders can share and experience holistic wellness.


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