World Health Organization launches new tool to help combat malnutrition

By Graham Salinger

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO)  recently launched a web-based tool that gives governments and health-care providers guidelines for combating malnutrition.

This new e-library will advise governments on the most effective ways of dealing with malnutrition. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA), developed by WHO in partnership with The Cochrane Collaboration, was launched in August. The new tool will help advise governments on effective ways to combat and prevent malnutrition says Ala Alwan, the WHO Assistant Director-General of Non Communicable Diseases and Mental Health. “Countries need access to the science and evidence-informed guidance to reduce the needless death and suffering associated with malnutrition,” Alwan explains. “[The e-library] can greatly improve how countries cope with the terrible health threats posed by malnutrition.”

More than 1 billion people worldwide are malnourished.  Undernourishment is an underlying cause in 35 percent of all deaths among children under five years old, according to the World Health Organization. Furthermore, the prevalence of underweight people remains the leading risk factor for many diseases in low-income countries and constitutes about six percent of the global disease burden.

 Micronutrient deficiencies also have a dramatic impact on human health.  Iodine deficiency is the world’s leading cause of brain damage. Anemia, which is caused by not having enough iron, affects nearly 2 billion people and is associated with 18 percent of maternal deaths.  Vitamin A deficiency , which is the leading cause of blindness in children and increases the risk of contracting infections, affects 190 million preschool childrenZinc deficiency causes problems with the immune system and claims the lives of 430, 000  children each year.

On the other end of the spectrum, obesity is a growing global phenomenon. An estimated 1.5 billion adults over age of 20 are overweight or obese while more than 40 million children under the age of five are already overweight or obese.

The e-library suggests several methods for effective health interventions that are required to tackle malnutrition including promoting breastfeeding, and fortifying staple foods with vitamins and minerals.

What do you think of this new tool? Tell us in the comments section!

Graham Salinger is a research intern for the Nourishing the Planet project.

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