The World Health Organization (WHO) reports millions of people are dying and suffering every year from malnutrition, which includes under-nutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and overweight problems and obesity. WHO is launching a new web-powered initiative, called electronic Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions, or eLENA for short. The website provides guidance on life-saving nutrition interventions to governments and health-care providers.
The World Health Organization says there is a vast amount of information available on how to treat malnutrition in its various forms. The problem is much of this advice on preventive and therapeutic nutrition interventions is conflicting.
This, it says, is not only confusing, but can be deadly. WHO says its new website can help countries cope with the terrible health threats posed by malnutrition. It says the new project presents the latest advice on which interventions can best tackle the main forms of malnutrition. These include under-nutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and overweight problems and obesity.
Tackling under, over nutrition
WHO Director for Health and Development, Francsco Branca, says countries all over the world are tackling a combination of under-nutrition and over-nutrition. He says developing countries are particularly affected by this dual burden.
“We can say that forms like child underweight, micro-nutrient deficiencies and poor breast feeding, which obviously are the main forms of under-nutrition, are responsible for seven percent of the deaths every year - about four million children under five die out of this," said Dr. Branca. "It is 10 percent of the global disease burden."
Micronutrient deficiencies, obesity
Micronutrient deficiencies include iodine deficiency, the world’s most prevalent, yet easily preventable cause of brain damage. It also causes anemia, which affects 1.6 billion people, vitamin A and zinc deficiencies, which affect hundreds of millions of very young children.
The third form of malnutrition is overweight and obesity. WHO reports around 1.5 billion adults over age 20 are overweight or obese. And, global estimates suggest more than 40 million children under age five are already overweight or obese.
Dr. Branca says a lot of work needs to be done in the area of childhood obesity. But, he notes some community projects aimed at helping children keep down their weight are meeting with some success. These projects he says focus on improving the quality of food offered to children in school and promoting physical activity.
“Making sure that the supply of the daily offer of food in the educational institution is adequate with lower energy content," he said. "There are more and more efforts towards, for example, the reduction of consumption of soft drinks, which is one of the key components of child obesity, the promotion of higher quality of food, for example fruit and vegetables - there are several, for example, initiatives in Europe to improve the offer of fruit and vegetables in schools as well as the promotion of leisure, physical activity."
WHO reports billions of people are affected by one or more types of malnutrition. It says the website, which has just been launched, will provide countries with the science and informed guidance they need to reduce the needless death and suffering associated with malnutrition.