Georgetown, GINA, August 3, 2016
The Ministry of Public Health’s Food Policy Division, in observance of Nutrition Awareness Week, today commenced a two-day education session with pregnant teenagers in Linden.
The sessions are being held at the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN) building, Republic Avenue, from 08:30 hours to 15:30 hours under this year’s theme, “Healthy Eating and Active Living: You, Your Health and Your Future”.
The sessions which cater for both written and practical aspects, focus on Safe Motherhood, Healthy Diet and Meal Planning, Anaemia (including the use of Sprinkles), and Early Childhood Development (focusing on breastfeeding) along with empowering teens to return to school.
Public Health Minister, Dr. George Norton during his remarks at the opening session said that, “we must recognise that nutrition requirement for pregnant mothers and even after is very critical. A woman’s body will certainly increase its nutritional needs during pregnancy. Although the old saying “eating for two” isn’t entirely correct, one does require more micronutrients and macronutrients to support her and her unborn child.”
Dr. Norton added that this process can be very stressful, and it is his hope that all the health centres are providing “counselling on proper dieting, and exercise is being done with patients/pregnant women on each clinic date.”
The Minister also highlighted that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has collaborated with the Ministry to implement a comprehensive health and development programme for teen mothers and their children. This is aimed at mitigating teenage pregnancy and enabling them to take control of those factors that inhibit social and health development so that they can achieve their full potential from adolescence to adulthood. It also seeks to create model centers of excellence to carry out health promotion interventions for teenage mothers and their children.
According to information emanating from the Public Health Ministry, “It is a known fact that babies born to teenagers are more likely to have lower birth weights, increased risk of infant mortality and an increased risk of some congenital anomalies. The importance of nutrition during pregnancy for the health of both mother and child is well documented. Nutritional needs are high in adolescence as the body grows and develops. Thus, when a teenager becomes pregnant, she needs all the help and support she can get.”
In 2012, a survey on ‘Iron, Iodine and Vitamin A Status and Antibody Levels in Guyana’ produced valuable information on the iron status of the Guyanese population. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, 24 percent of young children under five years, 20.8 percent of school children and 41.3 percent of antenatal women were anaemic. A significant percentage (51.0%) of pregnant women with anaemia, were 20 years old and younger. This is of crucial public health significance and concern as iron deficiency has serious health consequences.
An anaemic pregnant woman is at greater risk during the perinatal period. Recommendations from the Micronutrient Survey have emphasised that pregnant women were not only tested but counselled on the need for iron, when and how to use iron, and how much iron to use to address this. It was also recommended that pregnant women and parents/guardians of young children be counselled on diet.
Awareness activities regarding iron-deficiency anaemia, a preventable health condition, are continuous and ongoing by the Ministry of Health’s Food Policy Division.
Guyana has been observing Nutrition Awareness Week annually since 1995.