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Advocacy by IMU Nutritionists: Nutrition in the First 1000 Days of Life

21 Apr 2021

A/Prof Dr Snigdha Misra is an experienced community nutritionist, who begun her research journey by studying food anthropology among tribal communities and migrant population in eastern India. Since then, there has been no looking back and she has worked to support people’s health through improved nutrition. She has been working with many marginalised communities to improve their nutritional status and is acutely aware of how food insecurity during certain critical periods of life can harm health.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the lockdowns and restrictions affected food availability for many vulnerable groups. One such vulnerable group that especially worried Dr Snigdha – pregnant mothers! Why pregnant mothers? Dr Snigdha explains, “Pregnancy is an important period in a woman’s life. It is also an equally important period for the foetus growing within her. This is because the first 1000 days of human life – the period between conception and a child’s 2nd birthday, is a critical period, which determines the child’s health into adulthood.”

Dr Tan Seok Shin, who is Dr Snigdha’s colleague at the Division of Nutrition and Dietetics, IMU adds; “During the first 1,000 days, the brain grows more quickly than at any other time in a person’s life and a child needs the right nutrients at this time to feed the brain’s rapid development.” Dr Tan, a Senior Lecturer with a passion for community nutrition, emphasises that “Good nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood provides the best foundation for a child to grow, learn and thrive.”

Puan Rokiah Don, formerly with the Nutrition and Dietetics Division, International Medical University (IMU), and also the former Director, Nutrition Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia, is a co-researcher in this important project. She said that “Double burden malnutrition (DBM) still persists in Malaysia, with rising rates of childhood obesity as well as stunting amongst children, even among the urban poor.” Strengthening maternal nutrition and promoting infant and young child nutrition during the first 1000 days of life are two of the many key strategies to address DBM, as reflected in the National Plan of Action for Nutrition of Malaysia III (2016-2025).

United in their drive to improve community health through nutrition, Dr Snigdha, Dr Tan and Puan Rokiah Don will lead a project that safeguards the health of underprivileged pregnant, postpartum mothers and their children at nutritional risk for the first 1000 days of life. This project is in collaboration with YTL Foundation.

Dr Snigdha and Dr Tan inspire and mentor many students who share their passion to build a healthy community through good nutrition.

Human Life is Defined by Many Critical Periods with Specific Nutrient Requirements.
Having the right amount and type of food is essential for an individual to achieve their highest potential. Nutritionists help people achieve their best health and performance by advocating healthy eating according to their age, gender and physical activity levels. They also guide pregnant and lactating women to fulfil their dietary requirements. In addition, they help young mothers to prepare their baby’s weaning food and nutritious food for their older children, that looks and tastes good within their available means. Besides, they nutritionally coach sports men and women to achieve their personal best. For adults, they provide consultations on healthy eating and lifestyle to prevent diseases. Nutritionists help to improve the quality of life across all age groups. For the elderly, they train care- givers to modify the food texture and make it nutrient -dense to fulfil their daily requirements. .

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