Child and adolescent health and development

Adolescent nutrition: a review of the situation in selected South-East Asian Countries

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Publication date: 2006

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Approximately 20% of the population of the WHO South-East-Asia, consists of adolescents. The foundation of adequate growth and development is laid before birth, during childhood, and is followed during adolescence. Adolescents are the future generation of any country and their nutritional needs are critical for the well being of society. In SEAR, a large number of adolescents suffer from chronic malnutrition and anaemia, which adversely impacts their health and development. The high rate of malnutrition in girls not only contributes to increased morbidity and mortality associated with pregnancy and delivery, but also to increased risk of delivering low birth-weight babies. This contributes to the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.

In most developing countries, nutrition initiatives have been focusing on children and women, thus neglecting adolescents. Addressing the nutrition needs of adolescents could be an important step towards breaking the vicious cycle of intergenerational malnutrition, chronic diseases and poverty. Epidemiological evidence from both the developed and developing countries indicates that there is a link between foetal under-nutrition and increased risk of various chronic diseases during adulthood.

A review of the nutritional status of adolescents in Member Countries of WHO’s South-East Asia Region has been undertaken to identify the nutritional problems and to suggest relevant strategic interventions for policy makers. This review can be used to identify research gaps and serve as a guide to researchers for undertaking research in priority areas to generate evidence for strategic interventions.