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Laos highlights nutrition as Asean tackles human capital development

Senior representatives from Asean member countries and development partners met in Bangkok, Thailand, recently to discuss strategies to accelerate regional human capital development through integrated policy investments and innovative policy reforms.
Speaking at the Asean High-Level Meeting on Human Capital Development, Deputy Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Phouthone Muongpak noted the importance of health indicators, especially child nutrition, with more investment in people, particularly children and young people, a key challenge.
The Lao government recognised that reducing malnutrition, required political, financial and collaborative efforts from all sectors and levels, he said
“Laos has always been committed to investing in people and addressing poverty and maternal and child health issues. I think the strong move to focus on nutrition was driven by a combination of the results from the Lao Social Indicator Survey in 2011/2012 which showed that almost one in two children in Laos were stunted and that the country was off track for achieving the nutrition-related Millennium Development Goal,” he explained.
Laos used to have very high stunting rates in 2006 of 48 percent. In 2011, its stunting rates only lowered slightly to 44 percent. However, in 2017, stunting rates had dropped to 33 percent. This contributed to improvements in infrastructure, market access and overall quality of life in most segments of the population, which have aided improvements in health and nutritional outcomes, Dr Phouthone added. However, while the overall percentage of stunting has decreased nationwide, there are vast differences between each province, ranging from the lowest in the capital at 13.8 percent to Phongsaly at 54 percent.
“Although we can see that we are heading in the right direction, a lot still needs to be done to change people’s behaviours and way of life, especially those culturally entrenched child-rearing practices and health-seeking behaviours,” he said.
Long term financial commitment, continuous technical support based on new findings and through learning from other countries is still needed to ensure the sustained change in other provinces on this agenda.

 


By Phetphoxay  Sengpaseuth
(Latest Update September 20, 2019)


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