Good nutrition forms the core of health management. Highlighting the importance of proper nutrition to overall health, the World Health Organization (WHO) in its latest report is urging all health services and medical care providers to make nutrition a priority and introduce nutrition guidelines in all healthcare plans.

A top concern of the WHO has been achieving affordable and appropriate access to primary care in all communities across the globe. A key part of this plan is to make sure that national health services all over the world promote correct and helpful health guidelines for the use of healthcare practitioners and the public alike.

“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,” emphasized Dr. Naoko Yamamoto, who is Assistant Director-General at the WHO. “We also need better food environments, which allow all people to consume healthy diets,” she added.

Earlier this year, a United Nations (UN) report warned that, over the past three years, levels of global hunger have remained at concerning levels while, at the same time, obesity has continued to rise. The UN report states that in 2018, there were 821 million chronically undernourished people in the world, a rise of 10 million undernourished people from just a year earlier. The report also shows that an estimated 40 million children under the age of 5 were overweight, and that the increase in prevalence of obesity in this age group between 2000 and 2016 was faster than that of overweight.

In the newly released document, WHO figureheads point out that essential health packages must ensure that a person receives the best possible healthcare and guidance relating to nutrition at each stage of their life. At the same time, however, it specifies that each country must find out what changes and interventions its population would benefit from the most.

The report makes the following recommendations for critical nutrition interventions:

Providing daily iron and folic acid supplements to expectant mothers as part of antenatal care.

Delayed umbilical cord clamping, not earlier than 1 minute after birth, to lower the newborn’s risk of iron deficiency, necrotizing enterocolitis, and brain bleeding.

Promoting and supporting breastfeeding.

Providing accurate dietary advice, including the suggestion to reduce the intake of free sugars throughout life, and reducing the intake of salt to lower the risk of cardiovascular problems.

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The WHO report also pointed out that from the most recent data available there were 462 million people around the world who were underweight, while 1.9 billion are overweight and 600 million of those overweight were obese. The report added that adult overweight, obesity, and diabetes are rising in nearly every region and country. It has been estimated that if the world were to invest in nutrition interventions, more than 3.7 million lives could be saved by 2025.

The WHO has also set health targets that it hopes to achieve by 2025, including reducing the number of young children with stunted growth by 40 percent; reducing anemia in women of reproductive age by 50 percent; and no increase in childhood overweight.

However, to achieve these targets, will require the public, as well as national and international policymakers to support better policies and actions related to nutrition, said WHO.

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