Basics of Child Health – Nutrition & Hygiene
Dear Members of MPA, friends and colleagues,
Merdeka Greetings! And Salam Sejahtera!
We will celebrate the 65th anniversary of our country’s independence with the theme of “Malaysian Family – Strong Together”. We have had an outstanding and firm healthcare service for the last six decades.
However, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has taught us a fundamental lesson: we must not take things for granted. We must be more proactive and vigilant on the onslaught of emerging illnesses (Monkeypox, Langya) and the rise in old nemesis (2019 polio outbreak in Sabah). We are also dealing with a rising number of non- communicable diseases (NCDs) among our population, especially children and teenagers.
With the recent rise of flu cases in the community and the expected new wave of COVID-19 in the upcoming months, Malaysia could face twin life-threatening diseases of COVID-19 and influenza. Over the last two years, the COVID-19 preventive measures have reduced our exposure to infectious diseases. As the pandemic and associated social restrictions ease globally, we are seeing a rise in many common infectious diseases such as influenza, also known as the flu. The worrying trend is the speed at which infectious diseases such as hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) and flu are returning into our community since Malaysia entered the endemic phase beginning 1 April 2022. We are not seeing this abating yet. International travel, easing COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOP) and complacency towards social restrictions have also increased the importation of flu cases.
Flu can also be severe and fatal among high-risk groups. They are young children, older persons, pregnant women, those with comorbidities, and immunocompromised individuals. Most private and government hospitals still see congested emergency departments and paediatric wards with ill infants and children. We are concerned with the low population immunity due to the lack of exposure to influenza over the last two years and the low flu vaccination uptake in Malaysia. This makes the population more susceptible to catching the flu, and high-risk groups are at risk of severe, prolonged and even fatal diseases.
While the COVID-19 SOP must be maintained to prevent the flu, the World Health Organisation (WHO) encourages annual flu vaccination. According to the WHO, the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccination can be given together during the same visit. Getting the flu shot will protect pregnant women and their unborn children. We need widespread flu vaccination for our country.
Stunting in kids
On 27 June 2022, our honourable Health Minister drew our nation’s attention to the persistent problem of childhood malnutrition in Malaysia. He later announced a significant response embodied in the “2022-2030 National Strategic Plan to Address the Problem of Stunting in Children”.
This strategy would reflect an all-of- society approach, with initiatives and activities targeted at parents, childcare providers, family members, teachers, employers, communities and other stakeholders. As paediatricians, we need to contribute our expertise and experience. We are not only medical practitioners who care for children; we are also advocates who welcome the opportunity to work closely with parents in optimising their children’s growth.
Back in 2012, the Malaysian Paediatric Association launched IMFeD (“Identification and Management of Feeding Difficulty”), a programme driven by a panel of relevant experts, including paediatricians, dietitians, and psychologists. The IMFeD expert panel set out to develop guidance for the much-needed nutritional support for children experiencing growth faltering. Solutions ranged from handy tips to enhance or fortify their food to using oral dietary supplementation. We also instituted the IMFeD For Growth annual screening campaign to bring doctors and parents together to check on the children’s growth at least once a year. Involving a network of private clinics nationwide, we managed to perform over 100,000 growth checks since 2018. IMFeD is now ten years old; the Malaysian Paediatric Association is keen to have IMFeD For Growth embrace more significant challenges to realise the programme’s potential.
The intention is to jointly organise feeding, nutrition and growth training for general practitioners, medical officers, family medicine specialists, and maternal and child health nurses. We believe this move will contribute towards the capacity building to help combat the threat of stunting in urban and rural environments as well as affluent and lower socio-economic settings. Finally, with more partners on board, we hope to amplify the IMFeD For Growth annual screening campaign to benefit more children and adolescents each year.
IMFeD 10th anniversary
We commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the IMFeD For Growth programme on 14 July 2022 with a clear realisation that much more needs to be done for childhood stunting in Malaysia.
Children are our nation’s future, and paediatricians are responsible for the Health of our children; therefore, please join the efforts of MPA to champion this cause.
MPA is organising the 15th Congress of APPSPGHAN (Asia Pan-Pacific Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, in conjunction with the 43rd Annual Congress of the Malaysian Paediatric Association at Sabah International Convention Centre, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on 12-15 October 2022. I would strongly urge more of you to register for this international conference.
We hope to see most of you there physically, and there is much to catch up on! Enjoy the beautiful city of Kota Kinabalu. Please log on to https://appspghan2022.org/ and register today. Book your flights and hotels. We will meet in October at the “Land below the Wind.”