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Stunting of under-fives decline - Research

BY: Doreen Andoh
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director-General, Ghana Health Service, addressing the workshop. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director-General, Ghana Health Service, addressing the workshop. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA

There is a decline in the prevalence of stunting in under-fives in the country from 35.1 per cent in 2003 to 17.1 per cent this year, according to a research outcome.

It is expected to further reduce to at least five per cent in accordance with global standards.

The research also established that gaps in stunting inequalities had narrowed substantially over time.

The findings of the study were disclosed at a stakeholder dissemination workshop in Accra yesterday.

The study was conducted by an international research organisation, SickKids, in collaboration with the University of Ghana, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and an international partner, Exemplars in Global Health.

It was aimed at understanding the multifactorial drivers of child stunting reduction in countries where SickKids was conducting the study, referred to as “Exemplar countries”.

Stakeholders from academia, health, non-health and nutrition sectors discussed the findings and made recommendations.

The researchers and presenters of the findings included Professor Zulfiqar and Dr Michelle, both from SickKids; Dr Gloria Otoo and Prof. Seth Adu-Afarwuah of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Ghana.

Reduction drivers

The study attributed the reduction drivers to an increase in prevalence of formal education among mothers and women, food security, political stability, nutritional education, malaria prevention and the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.

Others are employment, women empowerment, increased maternal and newborn care associated with improved child growth over time, higher average maternal age and lower adolescent birth rate.

On the other hand, the study identified poverty, low educational levels and cultural factors as some of the causes of stunting.

The panellists, who included Dr Isabella Sageo Moses of the GHS, Prof. Anna Lartey and Prof. Richmond Aryeetey, both of the University of Ghana, cited the lack of funds as a major challenge.

They, therefore, called on the government to prioritise funding of food nutrition, while urging the media to increase advocacy on child stunting.

They referred to child growth stunting as a physical manifestation of chronic malnutrition linked to higher rates of sub-optimal development, morbidity and mortality of young children, with consequences that often endured later in life.

The WHO defines stunting as the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.

Significance

The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said the findings of the study would feed into the service’s policies and strategies geared at accelerating the fight against chronic malnutrition.

He said maternal, child health and nutrition services constituted the largest proportion of primary health care package aligned to the sector’s objectives and policy direction.

He mentioned some of the interventions by the GHS as the promotion of four-plus antenatal visits, intermittent prevention treatment of malaria in pregnant women, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, prevention of anaemia by way of iron and folic acid supplementation for pregnant women, the provision of skilled birth attendants and post-natal visits by mothers.

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