One of the greatest concerns that parents have is the wellbeing of their child, and more often than not, parents keep a close eye on details such as growth, development and welfare of their child very seriously. Many parents also have a concern about whether their child’s growth has reached its optimum stage or if it has reached its maximum growth potential.
According to Associate Professor Dr Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin, President of Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA), many children who seem to be growing normally may end up shorter and lighter than expected by the time they reach adulthood.
He explains: “Most Malaysian children are growing normally. However, the National Health & Morbidity Surveys have shown that some are not doing as well. The prevalence of stunting (low height-for-age) among children under five-years-old increased from 17% in 2006 to 20.7% in 2016. Underweight in the same age group also rose from 12.9% in 2006 to 13.7% in 2016.”
A/Prof Yazid adds: “While poverty-stricken children are particularly vulnerable, those from more affluent families can also be facing growth problems. This may be caused by a number of reasons that slowly impede the child’s growth over time. So, we need to detect and correct growth problems in all children to help them grow to their fullest potential.
“This is especially important in children in their first five years of life. 60% of a child’s growth potential is achieved in this age. When children have a healthy growth rate, they are more likely to have a healthy growth pattern as they continue growing”.
“Early intervention is critical because it can avert a host of long-term problems associated with poor growth including health issues (eg metabolic diseases), and developmental or psychosocial challenges (such as poor cognitive performance and low self-esteem).”
Professor Dr Lee Way Seah, Chairman of the IMFeD Malaysia programme, remarks: “As paediatricians, we encourage parents to work with us to optimise their children’s growth. This is why we decided to mount the IMFeD Malaysia ‘Get Growth On Track’ campaign, in collaboration with Abbott.
He went on to say, “We invite parents to visit participating paediatricians who have been trained to ‘Measure, Identify & Manage’ growth issues in children. We will plot their height and weight values onto growth charts, investigate possible growth risk factors, and counsel parents with appropriate measures to take.”
According to Prof Lee, the paediatricians will be particularly concerned with certain important tell-tale signs. These include inappropriate diet, poor food intake (due to picky eating, other feeding difficulties or developmental issues), and the presence of chronic health conditions.
“There are many things that can affect a child’s nutritional status which is, by far, the most important and direct determinant of how well the child will grow,” said Prof Lee. “This could be the reason why the child is shorter or lighter than an average child or may become that way in a few years down the road.”
Prof Lee assures parents that there are proven strategies to help overcome these growth risk factors. “As a parent, you will receive advice on what foods to give; feeding rules and techniques; tips to ensure adequate sleep, and even related parenting styles. If appropriate, your paediatrician may also recommend oral nutritional supplementation if your child requires additional energy and nutrients for catch up growth.
“These interventions have to be personalised to you and your child. Hopefully, they will mark the beginning of a journey that you and your paediatrician will make to continually check on your child’s improvement and monitor his/her growth,” he says.
Robert Cleveland, general manager of Abbott in Malaysia, believes the ‘Get Growth On Track’ campaign is a timely contribution to children’s health and wellness. He says: “At Abbott, we understand the concerns of parents on whether or not their children are growing well and getting the nutrition that they need to reach their full growth potential. That is why we have been working with Malaysian Paediatric Association through the IMFeD programme to support and train paediatricians on the role of nutrition in children’s growth since 2012. We are now even more excited to be associated with MPA’s first and largest childhood growth screening & counselling campaign.
“As the trusted nutrition partner, supporting the ‘Get Growth On Track’ campaign is our way of bringing paediatricians and parents together to bring lifelong benefits to Malaysians beginning with the tender years of childhood. We would like to call out to all parents to discuss your children’s growth with your paediatricians today,” Mr Cleveland added.
Parents who wish to find out more about the ‘Get Growth On Track’ campaign or locate a paediatrician, please contact the IMFeD Malaysia programme secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (03) 7931 1868 or (03) 7960 9788.