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Global Health

Introduction to Prevalence of Malnutrition

Malnutrition can be defined as the deficiency or excessive intake of a nutrient in one’s diet which causes health-related problems. It can be caused by the deficiency of one or more nutrients in the diet. It is the result of the imbalance of nutrients in the diet (Soeters et al. 2017). The term malnutrition is commonly used for the deficiency of the nutrients in most studies. It is further sub-divided into two sub-categories including lack of nutrition and deficiency of micronutrient (Muremyi 2020). The lack of nutrition causes stunted growth of children for their age group. It can also lead to less weight of the individual with respect to their height. In addition, it can cause underweight of the individual with respect to their age. The deficiency of micronutrients is the lack of important nutrients or minerals required by the body. Malnutrition can also lead to an increase in the weight of the individual and diseases which are non-communicable and caused by an improper diet. These diseases include heart-related diseases like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (Söderström et al. 2017). People with malnutrition also suffer a higher risk of lungs and kidney related infection. It can also result in a life-threatening situation sometimes. When malnutrition becomes severe in an individual it can develop into kwashiorkor. In this medical condition, the individual has a swollen abdomen. The symptoms which are associated with malnutrition include fatigue, tendency to get irritated, lack of concentration, continuous feeling of cold, depression, and longer recovery time for wounds and injuries. It is one of the biggest health challenges in the world (Bhutta et al. 2017). This report aims to highlight the global impact of malnutrition and their preventive measures. In this report, the risk factors associated with the issue and the countries most affected with it, underlining the reasons for it will be discussed. Then, the preventive measure for it, treatment, and long-term goals to eradicate the disease will be examined. Lastly, the aid provided by other countries regarding this purpose will be discussed.

Risk Factors

The major cause is a severely imbalanced diet which is often a result of lack of access to highly nutritious food commonly resulting from poverty. Sometimes it is caused by the poor absorption of food nutrients by the gastrointestinal tract. It also takes place in old people due to the aging of their body. The body becomes slow in digesting food and it leads to a decrease in their food intake. The decrease in their appetite with increasing age is also called as anorexia of aging (Landi et al. 2016). Long term weakness among people can also result in the occurrence of malnutrition as weak people have low food intake enhancing the chance of it. Excessive use of different types of medicines for a long time can affect the diet of people and thus putting placing them at a higher risk of malnutrition. A decrease in overall physical activity of the individual leads to less appetite causing malnutrition. Poor maintenance of self-health is another risk factor of malnutrition as it can also lead to a decrease in the diet.

Dementia causes the changes in the behaviour of an individual making them less physically active and decreasing the food intake which increases the risk of malnutrition (Andrade 2020). Dysphagia in the basal oral muscles causes poor swallowing of the food thus restricting the intake of food resulting in malnutrition (Wakabayashi, Takahashi and Murakami 2019). Other risk factors of malnutrition include Parkinson’s disease, constipation, dependability for food on others, and inefficiency of muscle to swallow food (Prell and Perner 2018). Although diet is the leading reason for malnutrition accounting for 18.8% of deaths around the globe due to malnutrition but there are several other reasons which account for malnutrition (Kizilyildiz et al. 2016). These reasons are unable to access clean water, no maintenance of sanitization and hygienic conditions, low income, lack of education, rate of pregnancy, and no access to quality of health services (Kizilyildiz et al. 2016).

Children are part of the population that is mostly affected by malnutrition. A study reported by World Health Organization (WHO) has shown in its report that Asia and Africa are the worst affected countries among all in the case of malnutrition (WHO 2020). Among the affected population mostly are children who are suffering from wasting and stunting simultaneously in these countries. The age of the children is under 5 years and the reason for their malnutrition is breastfeeding by anaemic mothers and lack of nutrition in diet due to socio-economic burden (Habyarimana 2016). Statistical data presented by WHO claims that Asia has 5.0% and Africa has 2.9% of total affected children due to malnutrition out of 15.95 million children affected worldwide (WHO 2020). It has been a major issue in these countries due to their low economy, poor standard of living, less awareness regarding the importance of balanced nutrition, and inaccessibility to all the resources to avail a balanced diet.

Preventive Methods

Malnutrition is associated with improper intake of nutrients in the diet so the best and most applicable method of prevention is to take a balanced diet. This can only be attained once an adequate amount of resources are available with the people. One of the most effective preventive measures by the health organization is to work in coordination to provide an adequate amount of resources to the population affected with malnutrition. Knowledge regarding the importance of proper nutrition in food should also be provided to decrease the occurrence of malnutrition. Improving the quality of life can be used as an effective preventive measure to overcome the burden of malnutrition (Mohseni, Aryankhesal, and Kalantari 2018). It has been shown that the living condition also affects the nutrition condition of people. People living in poor hygienic conditions are prone to malnutrition. Educating mothers about the significance of proper nutrition in diet can help eradicate malnutrition from children especially children of 5 years since this is the age group mostly suffering from malnutrition (Hasan et al. 2016). The highest mortality rate has also been reported in children of under 5 years. It is also important to focus on preventing malnutrition in children as they hold the future of a country and a higher mortality rate among children affects the country in many ways. The treatment provided to people suffering from malnutrition depends on the severity and type of malnutrition. It can be cured by consuming a healthy and balanced diet. Sometimes foods containing a high amount of nutrients are given to the patients if the case is more severe. A small portion of meals like snacks are suggested after a short interval of time. Drinks that are rich in calories are recommended in the treatment of malnutrition. In the case of dysphagia in the basal muscles of the mouth, tubes can be used for injecting of food in the body to fulfil the amount of calories required by the body. A direct tube called the percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube is fitted in the stomach to deliver food to the body. In most severe cases the solution containing the appropriate amount of nutrients is injected by connecting a drip in the body through blood vessels (NHS 2020). 

Long Term Goals

Malnutrition has affected 141 countries around the globe making it a major issue for several countries. The global trend of this problem has seen some decrease in the number of stunted children. The number of stunted children has decreased from 198.4 million in 2000 to 150.8 million in 2017 (WHO 2020). However, the problem is that still 150.8 million children are stunted. In addition to stunting 50.5 million children are wasted and 38.3 million children are overweight. In adults, 2.01 billion are overweight and obese. Different types of malnutrition have affected several countries with varying severity. Out of the 141 countries 124 countries are affected with more than one form of malnutrition which makes up 88% part of the total countries. The rest of the 41 countries have been affected by all three forms of malnutrition making up to 29% (WHO 2020).

Health organizations have started sustainable national nutrition programs to support people by ensuring proper nutrition. These programs are funded by several organizations helping countries that are in need. One of the programs is zero hunger started by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It has a motive to eradicate malnutrition and all types of hunger from the world by 2030 (United Nations Development Programme 2020). They are targeting the agricultural sector by helping farmers providing all the required resources and promoting sustainable farming. They aim for this as several countries have been able to reduce the number of malnourished people by 50% in the last two decades by focussing on their agriculture sector. The second program that started to fight and remove malnutrition is the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (IFAD 2019). It is also working with the same goal to provide proper nutrition to the people of a country that country should focus on their agricultural sector. The improvement in the quality of agricultural production will itself improve the quality of food among the population of that country. It is quite tough to judge the percentage of progress by 2030 but the programs have shown promising progress and progressing with the same intensity they will be able to reduce the large number of people suffering from malnutrition.

Foreign Aid

The Australian government has started a development policy to provide nutrition to children less than 5 years and more specifically to children less than 2 years old. The Australian government has provided $127 million for this cause. It is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian government (Australian Government, 2015). This aid is not specific to any area as it provides food to all those geological locations which are sensitive to under nutrition.

Nutrition Australia was started to combat malnutrition by promoting healthy eating. It focuses on all age groups of people. it is funded by the Australian government. They work towards their goal by conducting workshops, performing activities, and running government-funded projects.

Conclusion on Prevalence of Malnutrition

Malnutrition has become a major issue around the globe severely affecting Asia and Africa. Among all the age groups children are affected mostly specifically under the age of 5. Several organizations are working in the world to eradicate this problem along with WHO. Several long-term sustainability gaols have also been designed in this regard like UNDP and IFDP. They are focussed on improving the agricultural sector to provide a proper diet to the people. foreign aids have also been provided by the Australian government to fight malnutrition under policies and Nutrition Australia. All the organizations are working towards a common aim to remove malnutrition from the world by 2030.

References for Prevalence of Malnutrition

Andrade, C. 2020. Reverse causation, physical inactivity, and dementia. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 42(2), pp. 205–206.

Australian Government. 2015. A window of opportunity: Australian aid and child undernutrition. [Online]. Available at: https://www.dfat.gov.au/sites/default/files/a-window-of-opportunity-australian-aid-and-child-undernutrition-2015.pdf [Accessed on: 22 September, 2020].

Bhutta, Z. A., Berkley, J. A., Bandsma, R. H., Kerac, M., Trehan, I., and Briend, A. 2017. Severe childhood malnutrition. Nature reviews Disease primers, 3(1), pp. 1–18.

Habyarimana, F. 2016. Key determinants of malnutrition of children under five years of age in Rwanda: Simultaneous measurement of three anthropometric indices. African Population Studies, 30(2), pp. 2328-2340.

Hasan, M. T., Soares Magalhaes, R. J., Williams, G. M., and Mamun, A. A. 2016. The role of maternal education in the 15-year trajectory of malnutrition in children under 5 years of age in Bangladesh. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 12(4), pp. 929–939. DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12178.

IFAD. 2019. Nutrition. [Online]. Available at: https://www.ifad.org/en/nutrition [Accessed on: 22 September, 2020].

Kizilyildiz, B. S., Sönmez, B., Karaman, K., Beger, B., Mercen, A., Alioglu, S., and Cesur, Y. 2016. Prevalence, demographic characteristics and associated risk factors of malnutrition among 0-5 aged children: a cross-sectional study from Van, eastern Turkey. Pediatric reports, 8(4), pp. 6112.

Landi, F. et al. 2016. Anorexia of aging: risk factors, consequences, and potential treatments. Nutrients, 8(2), pp. 69.

Mohseni, M., Aryankhesal, A. and Kalantari, N. 2018. Prevalence of malnutrition among Iranâ s under five-year-old children and the related factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Iranian journal of pediatrics, 28(1), pp. 1-9.

Muremyi, R. 2020. Contribution of community health workers in the prevention of disease caused by malnutrition in Rwanda. Research Square,  pp. 1-31. DOI:10.21203/rs.3.rs-41252/v1

NHS. 2020. Treatment. [Online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/malnutrition/treatment/ [Accessed on: 21 September, 2020].

Prell, T. and Perner, C. 2018. Disease specific aspects of malnutrition in neurogeriatric patients. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 10, pp. 80.

Söderström, L. et al. 2017. Malnutrition is associated with increased mortality in older adults regardless of the cause of death. British Journal of Nutrition, 117(4), pp. 532–540.

Soeters, P. et al. 2017. Defining malnutrition: A plea to rethink. Clinical nutrition, 36(3), pp. 896–901.

United Nations Development Programme. 2020. Goal 2: Zero Hunger. [Online]. Available at: https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-2-zero-hunger.html#:~:text=The SDGs aim to end,to land%2C technology and markets. [Accessed on: 21 September, 2020].

Wakabayashi, H., Takahashi, R. and Murakami, T. 2019. The prevalence and prognosis of sarcopenic dysphagia in patients who require dysphagia rehabilitation. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 23(1), pp. 84–88.

WHO. 2020. Nutrition. [Online]. Available at: https://www.who.int/nutrition/globalnutritionreport/en/ [Accessed on: 21 September, 2020].

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