Special task force to improve food intake of pregnant mothers, young children and infants
Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei's obesity rate amongst children and babies aged one and below has captured the attention of government officials after a recently concluded National Health Survey conducted from 2009-2011 revealed that 8.7 per cent of children had consumed sweet beverages at such an early age. Unhealthy eating habits and failing to meet the daily-recommended nutrient intake along with inadequate consumption of vegetables and fruits amongst children increased their risks of developing health problems in the future.
The survey also revealed that 8.8 per cent of children aged five and below were obese while those below three years of age made up 3.3 per cent of the obesity rate. Only 26.7 per cent of the children were breastfed exclusively for six months while 37.5 per cent were given breast milk until two years of age. In general, it was found that children aged five and below met the recommended nutrient intake.
The figures, derived from the second National Health and Nutritional Status Survey (NHANSS), was revealed by Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Hj Adanan bin Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohd Yusof, the Minister of Health. The report on the first phase of the health survey on children aged five and below was officially launched yesterday while the second phase involving locals aged five to 75 will be launched later this year.
The minister highlighted that the survey provided detailed findings on health and food intake characteristics of the general population. It has also prompted the Ministry of Health to set up a special task force called the 'Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition Task Force' to improve the food intake of pregnant mothers, young children and infants through various initiatives.
It will further assess the results of the first phase of the survey whilst identifying and arranging the implementation of short-term, medium-term and long-term initiatives on the nutritional affairs of mothers, young children and infants in the country.
Pehin Dato Awang Haji Adanan explained that the survey served not only as an initiative to develop the field in health research but also aided in obtaining valuable 'evidence-based' findings that will be used as a guide in preparing and improving policies, action plans and effective healthcare programmes.
The minister emphasised that the imbalance and excessive food intake containing high amounts of sugar, salt and fats are the main causes of obesity.
"If these habits are not controlled or resolved, chronic diseases such as cancer and heart problems will increase.
"We are also aware that chronic deficiency in food nutrients in the body could impact a child's development and this must be avoided.
"The Ministry of Health, in its efforts to promote and inculcate a health lifestyle through food perspective in the country, has adapted the World Health Organisation's global strategy for health, food intake and physical activities primarily towards the prevention of diseases and lifetime practice of a healthy lifestyle," the minister said.
He also touched upon the health strategies that underline several important messages including a balanced diet and non-excessive food intake, consistent physical exercises, limiting the consumption of fats, changing from saturated to unsaturated fat and continuously avoiding trans-fats, consuming more fruits and vegetables including cereals, reducing the amount of sugar intake and reducing the consumption of salty food.
The minister also urged parents and guardians to take these messages seriously and give their fullest commitment towards achieving such goals.
A balanced and proper diet amongst babies and children must be given prime importance as it provides a positive impact towards the national and socioeconomic development of the Sultanate.
The minister also reiterated that children are important national assets who will become the future generation. The development of their mental and physical well-being are nourished by what and how they eat hence it is vital that parents or guardians provide a balanced and nutritional diet for their children and in general, the community as a whole.
He explained further the Ministry of Health's long- term emphasis on the importance of children healthcare including pregnant women receiving maternal care at health clinics nationwide.
Touching upon Brunei's achievement in the `Millennium Development Goal' in the health field, the minister highlighted its successful achievement in reducing the child mortality rate for children below fiveyears-old and deaths in pregnant women.
However, Pehin Dato Awang Haji Adanan asked not to be complacent, but instead, aim to achieve more in improving the quality of healthcare through data collected by the survey.
The report on the second phase of the survey will be revealed in June this year and will be categorised into age groups of five-to-10 years old, 11-to-17 years old and 18-to-75 years old.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin