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Researchers Want Nutrition to be a Global Priority

Update Date: Jun 06, 2013 11:45 AM EDT

Global health issues today tend to focus more on preventing health diseases and infections, such as malaria and polio. Although these conditions are preventable today due to advanced medications, the number of cases is still too high in certain regions of the world, which is why the global community is so focused on eradicating these diseases. Even though fighting these diseases could save a lot of lives, a new report places stress on a different global issue that often gets ignored, nutrition. This new report calls for the global community to make nutrition a priority.

According to the new report, malnutrition could be blamed for 45 percent of children's deaths that were under five years old. This rate translates to 3.1 million deaths annually in the world. The international team that calculated this number believes that nutrition should be a bigger issue since it contributes to so many premature deaths. The team reported that the first 1,000 days of a child's life, which is from conception to two-years-old, are the most vital days for health development. When malnutrition, which can be either overweight and obese or undernourished, occurs during this stage of life, the children's overall health gets severely jeopardized.

"The nutritional consequences of the months during pregnancy and the conditions during the first two years of life have very important consequences for mortality and for adult chronic disease," lead author and professor from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD in the United States, Robert Black said to BBC News. "The early nutritional deficit results in developmental consequences for the individual and that has implications for their ability to succeed in school and ultimately in society to have the most productive jobs."

The research team reviewed data dating back to 2008. The team calculated that in 2011, over 165 million children suffered from stunting, which meant that the children did not grow enough due to malnourishment. The team also estimated that 50 million children were affected by wasting, which is when one's weight is way too low in comparison to height. Not only does malnutrition affect children's mortality rates, it also can take a toll on the economy. Based from a recent report published by the United Nations (UN), malnutrition costs the global community a total of $3.5 trillion, which is roughly $500 per person. These cost estimations were based from healthcare fees and estimated loss in productivity.

Based from these alarming statistics, the team wants nutrition to become more of a priority than before. They believe that if the 10 nutritional interventions programs that have proven to be effective were scaled-up to 90 percent of the global community, nearly 900,000 lives could benefit in 34 countries.

The report was published in The Lancet

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