NACCHO #NNW2016 #RMA16 Aboriginal Children’s Health : Malnutrition Traps Children Of Remote Australia In Poverty

fresh-foods

” Growing up without access to affordable, healthy food to eat – being food insecure – is not just bad for the health of a child, it also affects their growth and development.  If food insecurity persists, it affects all aspects of the child’s schooling, setting children up for a poor life trajectory.

The 1000 days from conception up until a child turns two are critical days to ensure every child has the basic building blocks they need for success at school and throughout life.”

Professor Kerry Arabena, Chair of Indigenous Health at the University of Melbourne, leads the First 1000 Days Australia project.

 “We consider electricity and water to be vital parts of society — we even have universal access to the Internet — but we don’t have anything like that for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Kim Webber National Rural Health Alliance 

And the findings of the report Food Insecurity and Health in Rural and Remote Australia support this.

food

Download rirdc_foodsecurity_prj010146_fullreport

Malnutrition, obesity and nutritional risk were identified in 44% of paediatric admissions to a sample of tertiary paediatric and regional hospitals during a one-day snap shot of Australian paediatric admissions in 2015.

In 1995, it was estimated that about 20% of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory suffered from malnutrition.  Without more robust data, it is hard to know whether this situation has changed in the intervening 21 years.

And the findings of the report Food Insecurity and Health in Rural and Remote Australia support this.

The events and conditions that exist in these first 1000 days up until a child turns two have a significant impact on the way a child develops. This means the health and wellbeing of the mother before she becomes pregnant and during pregnancy is crucial in giving children the best start in life.

Where conditions are optimal, the mother and child have the best possible situation for a healthy pregnancy resulting in a normal birthweight baby that will reach its healthy growth and development marks.

International studies show that children who are malnourished in the first year of life have impaired growth, lower IQs and poor scholastic achievement.

But this doesn’t have to be.  A second International study that has been following a group of children into adulthood showed that the potentially poor health, education and life outcomes can be addressed with early, ongoing, nutritional support through better diet and vitamin/mineral supplements.

Children offered such ongoing support to their diet had higher rates of schooling completion, better reading comprehension, higher IQ test results and earned higher wages.  And their risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease was also reduced.

With such results, supporting better diets for rural and remote mothers and young children makes sense.

Additional article

On any given day in a regional Australian hospital, 44 percent of children admitted will be there due to malnutrition.

In our wealthy nation, where no one starves, National Rural Health Alliance research details an epidemic of malnutrition in regional and remote areas, and it’s affecting children’s development for the rest of their life.

Chief executive officer Kim Webber told The Huffington Post Australia that the problem isn’t that there is no food — it’s that there is the wrong kind of food available.

“A lot of Australians don’t realise how hard it can be to access affordable fruit and vegetables in regional areas,” Webber told HuffPost Australia.

We consider electricity and water to be vital parts of society — we even have universal access to the Internet — but we don’t have anything like that for fresh fruit and vegetables.Kim Webber

“To get there, the supply chains are long and expensive, and the communities of 1000 or 500 people aren’t big enough to have that buying power. There are no subsidies, it’s all the private market so regular fruit and vegetables end up being very expensive.

“Grey nomads have a better idea of the issues, because they’ve driven through the areas.

“A woman in Wilcannia said she went to make her child a cake, and a tub of butter and a 2L milk cost $14.”

Webber said this often results in a diet of poor quality, processed food. Early malnutrition affects all aspects of a child’s life, from stunting intelligence to affecting concentration at school.

“We’re setting people up for poor health and wellbeing over their whole life because we consider electricity and water to be vital parts of society — we even have universal access to the Internet — but we don’t have anything like that for fresh fruit and vegetables.”

University of Melbourne Chair of Indigenous Health, Kerry Arabena, is leading a program called First 1000 Days Australia project that seeks to ensure children have adequate nutrition right from before conception through to about two years of age.

We know food insecurity among pregnant women has a likely impact of lower birthrates, increased risk of birth defects, and a real risk of poor brain growth and development.Kerry Arabena

“Basically before a woman becomes pregnant, it’s really critical they have access to good fresh food because their health and wellbeing secures that of their children,” Arabena said.

“We know food insecurity among pregnant women has a likely impact of lower birthrates, increased risk of birth defects, and a real risk of poor brain growth and development.”

“International studies show that children who are malnourished in the first year of life have impaired growth, lower IQs and poor scholastic achievement.”

Webber said Australia needed to find ways to ensure all people had access to affordable, nutritious food.

“Otherwise it’s a vicious cycle of disadvantage,” Webber said

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