PREGNANT women in Pampanga and Zambales have been chosen as the initial recipients of the Diet Supplementation for the First 1000 Days program of the Department of Health (DOH) as part of its campaign to counter the low birth weight prevalence in the country.

In a press conference to launch the program, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said 50 women in Porac, Pampanga, and another 50 in Candelaria, Zambales, that are deemed as nutritionally-at-risk will be chosen by the local government units (LGUs) as beneficiaries.

“The primary objective of the daily 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,” said Ubial.

To note, the first 1,000 days, which covers the women’s pregnancy period up to the first two years of the child’s life, has been defined as the “golden window of opportunity” for the necessary interventions that will result to having positive impact on the child’s development.

Under the said program, rice-based meals composed of iron-fortified rice, texturized vegetable protein, dehydrated vegetables, and flavoring mix with essential vitamins and minerals, will be provided to an initial number of 100 nutritionally-at-risk women when they visit the local health centers.

According to Rise Against Hunger executive director Jomar Flores, the program would be expanded depending on the availability of funds, which will come from donors.

“This is a pilot program and the expansion or scale will depend on the availability of funds. So there is a component of fund-raising in this advocacy. It is not the nutrition but also we are asking for sponsors and other individuals to donate in this campaign,” said Flores.

According to the health chief, there is a need to provide the supplemental rice-based meals to pregnant women for their first 1,000 days in order to help address the problem on low birth weight prevalence in the country.

“We have one of the highest low birth weight in the entire Southeast Asia. So one in every five newborns have low birth weight in this country,” said Ubial.

She noted how present data showed that more than one in every five infants born have low birth weight or 21 percent.

She said one of the causes of the continued prevalence of high low birth weight rate could be due to the fact that the government had previously focused on helping underweight infants.

“Some of the studies and evidence say that it is actually too late. We have to intervene before the child is born. Dapat nasa uterus pa, mag-intervene na. That is why our feeding program now goes even go beyond the birth of the child and into the pregnancy of the mother,” said Ubial. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)