MoH: A decline in children's stunting from 29.3% to 20%

Vietnam has recorded progress in improving nutrition conditions and public health. Cases of malnutrition among children have fallen significantly and sustainably. According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), over the past years, the rate of underweight and malnourished children in Vietnam has decreased from 29.3% in 2010 to less than 20% by 2020.

Vietnam has set to reduce childhood malnutrition and the stunting rate to less than 20 percent and the obesity rate among adolescents under 12 percent by 2025. Photo: VietnamPlus

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam held a working session with Ministry of Health and representatives of international organisations in Hanoi on December 4, during which he listened to reports on some important contents in the draft National Nutrition Strategy for the 2021-2030 period.

According to the Ministry of Health, over the past years, the implementation of the strategy has achieved remarkable results as the rate of underweight and malnourished children in Vietnam has decreased from 29.3% in 2010 to less than 20% by 2020.

In October, the National Institute of Nutrition also has launched a “nutrition and development week” in a bid to raise public awareness of proper nutrition for sustainable development.

The campaign included activities to encourage rural residents to develop the VAC model, which combines garden cultivation, fish breeding in ponds, and animal husbandry to increase food sources.

It called upon the community to diversify their dining habits to guarantee a sufficient intake of vitamins along with proper nutrition for children during their first 1,000 days of life and the practice of healthy nutrition and physical exercise for all.

Speaking at the event, Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam said that the encouraging results were made thanks to the support from international organisations and partner countries.

He noted that the malnutrition remains a major problem in Vietnam, especially in remote and mountainous regions and natural disaster-hit areas. He also warned of an increase in the rate of overweight and obesity in children in urban areas, as well as diet-related chronic diseases.

Therefore, he stressed that in addition to working harder to reduce stunting rates, further effort is needed to prevent and control the rate of overweight and obesity.

Overview of the working session. Photo: VGP

Dam said that in order to realise the goals, the new National Nutrition Strategy should gather the participation of the entire community and society, together with the State’s resources and the coordination of the Ministry of Health.

He asked the Ministry of Health to step up the implementation of the Vietnam Health Programme with three major priorities: promoting a healthy diet and lifestyle with appropriate nutrition and increased physical activity to improve Vietnamese people’s stature and well-being; raising public awareness on behavioural changes to protect health and prevent health-related risks; and providing constant and long-term primary healthcare services to reduce the burden of illness on the community and enhance people’s quality of life.

Child growth is internationally recognized as an important indicator of nutritional status and health in populations. As weight is easy to measure, this is the indicator for which most data have been collected in the past. Evidence has shown that the mortality risk of children who are even mildly underweight is increased, and severely underweight children are at even greater risk. Thus, monitoring weight-for-age can help assess the contribution of growth promotion programs to mortality reduction. 

Weight-for-age reflects body mass relative to chronological age. Low weight-for-age identifies the condition of being light or underweight for a specific age and reflects the process of gaining insufficient weight relative to age or losing weight. Since weight-for-age is influenced by both the height of the child and by its weight, the indicator reflects both past (chronic) and/or present (acute) undernutrition. This indicator is also a measure of health and nutritional risk in a population.

Underweight, based on weight-for-age, is recommended as the indicator to assess changes in the magnitude of malnutrition over time.

Tu Anh