Share of well-nourished women remains unchanged

58 per cent in 2007, 56 per cent in 2017-18

FE ONLINE REPORT | Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Terming that both forms of malnutrition pose a grave risk for maternal and child's health in Bangladesh, a latest study reveals that nearly 17 million women remain malnourished in the country.

Of the total, 5.0 million women between 15-49 years are underweight, while 12 million are overweight/obese, as per the study, which was jointly conducted by icddr,b and Data for Impact (D4I).

If this trend persists, linear projections indicate that about 46 per cent of ever-married women of reproductive age will be overweight/obese by 2030, it reads.

The findings were presented at an evidence-sharing session with a group of journalists at icddr,b’s Mohakhali Campus in the capital on Tuesday.

The findings were, jointly, presented by Shusmita Khan, knowledge management and communications specialist of Data for Impact (D4I), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and M Moinuddin Ahmed, associate scientist, Health Systems and Population Studies Division (HSPSD), icddr,b.

At the function, stakeholders and participants discussed the double burden of malnutrition among Bangladeshi women of reproductive age and how and why it is important to reassess the country’s maternal and child health programmes and policies

Bangladesh should reassess and rethink the maternal and child health programmes and policies to address the growing problem, they opined.

The recent evidence based on secondary analysis of Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS) datasets for the last one decade along with policy synthesis, were presented in the seminar which indicated a major shift in the nutritional status of women of reproductive age in the country.

Between 2007 and 2017, in addition to improvements in many human development indexes, the proportion of under-nutrition (body mass index <18) among Bangladeshi ever-married women aged 15–49 declined sharply from 30 per cent to 12 per cent, the findings said.

However, the proportion of overweight/obese (BMI ≥25) women increased from 12 per cent to 32 per cent during the same period, it says.

In addition, despite remarkable progress in reducing undernourishment among women, the share of well-nourished women remains unchanged, 58 per cent in 2007 and 56 per cent in 2017-18.

In Bangladesh, the increased weight among women of reproductive age is a grave concern because about 3.4 million births occur annually. Among those, around 900,000 births occur to overweight/obese women, and 500,000 births occur to underweight women.

 If the current trend in malnutrition continues, pregnancies/births among overweight women will increase.

Besides, maternal obesity increases the risk of perinatal complications such as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and caesarean deliveries.

Maternal obesity also has implications for breastfeeding, with decreased rates of initiation and reduced breastfeeding duration. All these complications have potentially serious implications for infant survival, growth, and development, as well as intergenerational implications.

An analysis of the three main government policy documents related to nutrition, the Bangladesh National Strategy for Maternal Health 2019–2030, the National Nutrition Policy 2015, and the Second National Plan of Action for Nutrition 2016–2025, shows that the current policies concerning maternal health and nutrition are fragmentary and mostly address the issue of underweight.

The call of the hour is for national policies to address the double burden of malnutrition among women of reproductive age across pre-conception, pregnancy, and post-natal stages to ensure optimum maternal and child health.

Dr Kanta Jamil, senior research, monitoring, Evaluation and Leaning advisor, USAID; Ms Saiqa Siraj, Country Director of Nutrition Initiative; Dr Shams El Arifeen, senior scientist, Maternal and Child Health Division (MCHD), icddr,b; Dr Ahmed Ehsanur Rahman, associate scientist, MCHD, icddr,b attended the session as technical experts and exchanged their views with journalists on ways to overcome this challenge.

The event was jointly organised by Data for Impact (D4I), a data-driven initiative of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and icddr,b; and was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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