Health dept to pilot diet supplementation among poor pregnant women under ‘First 1,000 Days’ advocacy

MANILA, Jan. 18 (PNA) — The Department of Health (DOH) starting next month will pilot a project that will provide dietary supplements to the poorest pregnant women in two selected areas in the country, as part of its “First 1,000 Days” advocacy.

The department, in partnership with Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now), will provide the diet supplements, which will come in the form of rice-based meals, to 50 “nutritionally at-risk” pregnant women each in Porac, Pampanga and Candelaria, Zambales to look after their babies’ health from the start of the women’s pregnancy, during lactation and up to two years after childbirth.

“The primary objective of the meal provision is to improve the nutritional status of selected nutritionally at-risk pregnant women in selected areas to prevent low birth weight and other birth defects, which are predictors of stunting among children,” Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial said during a press conference held Wednesday at the DOH Convention Hall in Tayuman, Sta. Cruz, Manila, following the signing of a memorandum of agreement by the department and Rise Against Hunger, led by executive director Jomar Fleras.

Ubial said the distribution of the meals will be an opportune time to educate the pregnant women on the importance of proper nutrition during pregnancy, lactation, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, child health care, nutrition and monitoring so children would attain optimum growth and development.

Fleras said the meals will consist of iron-fortified rice, texturized vegetable protein, dehydrated vegetables and flavoring mix with added 23 essential vitamins and minerals.

“It is cooked like ‘lugaw’ or porridge,” he said, noting that there will be five flavors to choose from — chicken arroz caldo, beef congee, chicken, guinatan and champorado. To prevent the women from selling the meals, the beneficiaries will be required to surrender the empty packs.

The meals will be donated by Rise Against Hunger, which has donors from banks, BPOs and other members of the private sector.

Terry Allan Farris, managing director of Pass It Forward, an NGO tied with the Miss Universe beauty pageant, said 50 candidates will join the advocacy during the packing of the meals that will be distributed to the pilot areas.

The “First 1,000 Days” is globally recognized as the “golden window of opportunity” to improve nutrition and ensure that women and their babies are healthy in the latter’s first 1,000 days. (PNA)