Rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and poor sanitation, precarious livelihoods, lack of affordable primary healthcare have been posing multispectral challenges for achieving universal health coverage for nutrition, health experts told a programme.
Coordination, collaboration, standardisation and harmonisation among multiple stakeholders are imperative to improve the nutritional situation of the country, they suggested.
Their observations came on Monday at a workshop titled 'Scaling up nutrition (SUN) policy dialogue-2022' at a city hotel organised by Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
In his presentation, Dr SM Mustafizur Rahman, line director, National Nutrition Services, DGHS, said that 22 ministries have been working to achieve the universal health coverage for nutrition target by 2025 by fulfilling 12 commitments. Of those commitments, health ministry will work on six.
These are – to reduce childhood stunting to 25% from 31%, wasting to below 7% from 9.8%, incidence of low birth weight to 10% from 14.8%, no increase in childhood obesity among children under 5 more than 2.4%, reduce anemia among women of reproductive age to 20% from 30.2% and recruitment of 64 district nutrition officers.
Other ministries have been working to achieve the targets of rest of the commitments including reduction of prevalence of undernourishment, moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, dependence on cereals for Dietary Energy Intake, increase the coverage of nutrition-related social safety net programmes, strengthen and mainstream the multisectoral, nutrition surveillance system, and multisectoral tracking of financial allocation for nutrition.
Chief Guest of the programme Health Secretary Dr Anwar Hossain Hawlader said that obesity and NCDs are increasing due to the over-dependence on junk foods. Currently, the mortality rate from NCDs is 70%. That's why the health ministry or local government ministry alone cannot improve the nutrition situation.
He also criticised poor performance of urban primary healthcare system operated by the local government ministry because of their inadequate supportive manpower.
"As the urban primary healthcare has not been developed, patients throng to the secondary and tertiary care hospitals most of whom are urban primary health care patients," said the secretary, adding: health ministry will introduce an urban primary health care system which will be incorporated in the next five year sector plan.