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Health services must place a stronger focus on ensuring optimum nutrition at each stage of a person’s life, a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) stated, estimating that the right investment in nutrition could save 3.7 million lives by 2025.
“In order to provide quality health services and achieve Universal Health Coverage, nutrition should be positioned as one of the cornerstones of essential health packages,” said Dr Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director-General at WHO.
“We also need better food environments which allow all people to consume healthy diets,” Naoko said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Essential health packages in all settings need to contain robust nutrition components but countries will need to decide which interventions best support their national health policies, strategies and plans, the report stated.
It added key interventions include: providing iron and folic acid supplements as part of antenatal care; delaying umbilical cord clamping to ensure babies receive important nutrients they need after birth; promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding; providing advice on diets such as limiting the intake of free sugars in adults and children and limiting salt intake to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Meanwhile, international development organisation Digital Green on Wednesday said that Project Samvad, an initiative to encourage good health and nutrition practices, has reached over five lakh rural women directly and 1.9 million indirectly through videos, radio and interactive voice responses.
A statement about the USAID-funded initiative was issued by the organisation on the occasion of National Nutrition Week — September 1-7.
The statement said Project Samvad aims to help change social behaviours related to family planning, maternal and child health and nutrition in rural communities. The project produces short videos that demonstrate good health and nutrition practices using community members and locally relevant content created by and for communities. It partners with state-level counterparts of the National Health Mission, National Nutrition Mission, Ministry of Women and Child Development and the National Rural Livelihood Mission to tap into existing public and private outreach channels.
Frontline health workers who are trained to engage participants and reinforce video messages screen the videos to groups of 15-20 villagers through battery-operated projectors. Project Samvad has also collaborated with other partners to complement the video-based approach with radio and interactive voice response system messages.
So far, the project has reached 500,000 rural women directly and 1.9 million indirectly across six states with particularly vulnerable populations: Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Assam.
More than half of all people reached have adopted at least one healthy practice, with three to four practices the average, said the statement. Government partners have also observed increased attendance in Village Health and Nutrition Days and immunisation days since the video project began, USAID/India’s Health Office Director, Sangita Patel said.