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LET’S TALK NUTRITION: Building a Healthy Nutrition Environment for Adolescents

Nutrition remains a key contributor to curbing infant and maternal mortality and morbidity, high cognitive development, decreased severity of diseases which adversely affects productivity in Nigeria. The country’s current childhood under-nutrition indicator puts stunting at 37%, wasting at 7% and underweight at 23% (NDHS, 2018) with about 2.6 million children under the age of five threatened by malnutrition. These negative results indicate a rising trend in Nigeria’s malnutrition burden which will continue to further impede the nation’s economic development if not checked as globally, stunting is currently an indicator for measuring a country’s development.

Though according to the 2020 global nutrition report, Nigeria has made some progress towards Maternal, Infant & Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN), particularly towards achieving the Exclusive Breastfeeding target with 28.7% of infants aged 0 to 5 months exclusively breastfed, but the report shows that the country has shown no progress towards achieving the target for obesity, with an estimated 13.1% women and 4.6% of men living with obesity. You will agree with me that Obesity is one form of malnutrition that mostly affects and impacts adolescents owing to poor and harmful dietary practices like over-consumption of high calorie “snacks” includes fatty and greasy food (what is popularly called Junk food), sweet foods, highly flavored food.

Let me break it down! What I’m saying is that a lot of efforts, strategies, policies and even plans have been put in place to reduce the rate of malnutrition but those aren’t enough. There are still many households in Nigeria where children and adolescents are not provided a “Nutrition-health and friendly” environment for adequate nutrition.

By the way I almost forgot to ask, how are you doing?

As you continue to read, you will learn how a healthy nutrition environment can be built for young people in Nigeria. I hope you are ready to go on this amazing ride with me.

Nutrition has a profound impact on the present and future of young people. It

•Prevents child deaths by more than one third per year

•Improves school attainment by at least one year

•Increases wages by 5-50%

•Reduces poverty as well-nourished children are 33% more likely to escape poverty as adults

•Empowers women to be 10% more likely to run their own business

•Breaks the inter-generational cycle of poverty

Now let me pause here and reflect on my childhood because I want you to understand how important the issue of adequate nutrition is to every child, adolescent, and young person as prevention, they say, is better than cure. (oops! I think I just got the topic for my next blog post, lol).

Well, childhood for me was okay, generally, but not so smooth nutrition-wise because I was overweight for my age. I lived with my Grandma for some time when I was still a little child and I literally “blew up”! The problem was, I was fed a lot of times, and all those times I wasn’t getting adequate nutrients because I was mostly being fed carbohydrates. Some Grandmas, am I right? Lol. So, you can imagine being bigger than your peers and being made fun of. This then made me hop on a diet plan to get back to a healthier weight. I made some mistakes while on the plan but that’s a story for another blog.

It wasn’t my Grandma’s fault though because in Nigeria some uninformed persons just eat to get full and don’t bother if what they eat is nutritious enough. Because the unemployment rate is significantly high in Nigeria, many people, especially youths have found other ways to earn a living, which also includes farming and agriculture. I’m saying this because people come across all the different classes of food but don’t bother consuming them. Maybe because they feel carbohydrates are all they need or don’t necessarily even know the importance of consuming an adequate diet.

A healthy Nutrition environment is one that has in place environmental and policy interventions for creating population-wide improvements in food and nutrition security, physical activity, and weight status. It also puts in place effective social, economic, and environmental strategies related to improving the entire food system.

Nigeria needs to create a nutrition environment that will contribute to improving nutritional status particularly of adolescents. Everyone has a role to play, the Government, policy makers, parents, employers of labor, adolescents and all. For instance, a family of 5 (2 parents and 3 kids); a healthy nutrition environment in such as home can be created when the parents eat adequate diet while also helping the children experiment with different ways of mixing and consuming adequate diet.

What can be done to create healthy nutrition environment for adolescents?

  • Young persons should ensure that they avoid harmful dietary practices and consume adequate diets.
  • The government should implement nutrition policies.
  • Schools should incorporate nutrition in their curriculums.
  • Civil Society Organizations like Civil Society- Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria should ensure that they continue to speak up and advocate for better nutritional wellbeing of women and children.
  • Women and girls should consume iron and folic acid supplements as it helps them especially during pregnancy and menstruation.
  • Healthcare providers should continue to promote antenatal check-ups for pregnant women.
  • Parents should be encouraged to cultivate home gardens to foster consumption of adequate diets.

That’s all for now! Talk to you soon!