Massacre of Innocents 2-A A +A
Sunday, September 30, 2012
VITAL research by scientists is often obliterated by political feuds. A petulant Mayor Mike Rama and an arrogant Rep. Tomas Osmeña bicker ad nauseam over who is the bigger jerk.
As a result, many of us don't get to hear, much less discuss, "gut issues." Take crucial infant malnutrition and deaths.
Much insightful analysis about kids threatened with premature graves comes from a Cebuano scientist: Dr. Florentino Solon. Friends address this one time city mayor with the Cebuano moniker: “Dodong.”
In 1984, Solon crafted, with the late Fr. Wilhelm Flieger of San Carlos University, the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS). It did not only study 3,327 mothers and their 3,080 children in 33 Metro Cebu barangays. CLHNS continues to track them over three generations--providing a lode of data, tapped by World and Asian Development Banks to Unicef.
It’s not true that Cebu City officials couldn’t make heads or tails of CLHNS and vital follow-up studies. They just didn’t bother to look--which is worse. Today, CLHNS is of one of only five on-going worldwide longitudinal studies. The other four are in South Africa, Brazil, India and Guatemala.
Over the last six decades, Solon focused on public health and nutrition. Much of his work is based at the Nutrition Center of the Philippines as executive director. From this perspective, he writes that low exclusive breastfeeding rates are a critical problem.
The 2008 National Demographic Health Survey found that only three out of 10 mothers breastfeed. Majority of studies, between 1995 to 2010, documented how these infants become malnourished. “It is estimated that 16,000 Filipino infants die because of sub-optimal breastfeeding,” notes the World Health Organization.
In the first six months of a life, an 8 to 10 time increase in “diarrhea related mortality” was pinpointed among kids whose mothers (a) failed to initiate; or (b) ceased breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding is also a major determinant of stunting among children aged 6 months of age.
Those dwarfed early are more likely to be severely stunted. Undersized kids, especially the severely stunted, “are more likely to perform poorly in cognitive tests when older.”
Taller children are less likely to drop out of school and or flunk and repeat grades. And weight gain, in an infant’s first two years of life, is associated with better school outcomes.
“Data from 2011 National Demographic Health Surveys shows that exclusive breastfeeding rates in the Philippines improved to 51 percent,” Solon notes. Next year’s NDHS survey would have the most reliable historical figures. Let us see.
The Milk Code (Executive Order 51) and Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (RA 10028) are “landmark” legislation. They set the framework for improving nutrition of infants and young children. They should be reinforced, not overhauled as a pending bill in Congress suggests.
Concern swirls around an innocent sounding measure titled: “An Act Promoting a Comprehensive Program on Breastfeeding Practices, Regulating the Trade, Marketing, and Promotions of Certain Foods for Infants and Children.”
This bill would water down the Milk Code Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act protest Groups that include: Philippine Medical Association, Academy of Family Physicians, Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and Prenatal Association.
Underhanded approval by Congress would repeat the “Massacre of the Innocents” who cannot fight back.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 30, 2012.