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Working collaboratively to tackle anemia among pregnant women, teenage girls

Given the complexity of the anemia problem in Indonesia, tackling blood deficiency among pregnant women and adolescents entails multi-stakeholder collaboration among the private and public sectors, which also go beyond institutions handling health issues, a webinar has concluded.

A JakPost UpClose webinar titled “Ironclad: Ending Intergenerational Anemia with Good Nutrition” was held on Tuesday, sponsored by Danone Indonesia.

Anemia among pregnant women in Indonesia is regarded as a severe public health problem due to its current prevalence of 48.9 percent based on the 2018 Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) carried out by the Health Ministry, exceeding the 40 percent threshold.

Furthermore, 32 percent of our teenage girls also suffer from anemia, which will seriously compromise their socioeconomic well-being and that of the next generation. Most pregnant women and teenage girls have deficiencies in animal protein, vitamin A, iron and iodine.

Indonesian Nutrition Association secretary Saptawati Bardosono revealed that Indonesia’s enduring anemia problem, which she has been studying since she was a university student in 1974, was driven by a complex web of risk factors: poverty, sanitation and culture.

“First of all, most of our iron source comes from animal protein, which is expensive for poor families. In regions with poor sanitation, children can suffer from anemia because they have intestinal worms, which result in diarrhea that disturbs their iron absorption. The fact that the Indonesian diet is heavy on cereal-based plants, especially rice, which disrupt iron absorption, should also be taken into account,” she said during the webinar.

Meanwhile, Danone Indonesia vice president general secretary Vera Galuh Sugijanto pointed to a lack of public awareness, in which the public tended to prefer tasty snacks or foods that lacked essential nutrients as another anemia risk factor.

To tackle this problem, the Health Ministry has disseminated iron supplement pills to pregnant women and teenage girls across Indonesia, along with fortified food ingredients, namely cooking oil, flour and salt fortified with vitamin A, iron and iodine, respectively.

In 2020, the ministry targeted 22.1 million teenage girls, approximately 2 million soon-to-be-married couples, 5.2 million pregnant women, as well as 9.3 million babies aged up to 23 months to receive this intervention. Meanwhile, Danone Indonesia has done its bit by helping with public awareness programs on nutrition covering 57,000 mothers, 4,600 teachers, 52,000 early childhood education students in 1,487 early childhood education schools across six provinces in Indonesia.

Danone Indonesia has also given nutritious food training to the canteen ladies of schools in the vicinity of its factories across Indonesia, while providing families around the areas with classes on essential nutrients during children’s first 1,000 days of life.

The ministry also complements this with public awareness and education campaigns on nutrition and sanitation. According to Dhian Proboyekti Dipo, the Health Ministry’s public health director general, anemia among pregnant women results in suboptimal embryo development, which will lead to irreversible physiological problems once the children are born.

“Therefore, these women can give birth to stunted babies, which are not only physically short but also have serious specific nutritional deficiencies,” Dhian said. Saptawati pointed out that iron deficiency, specifically during the gestation period and in the early days of childhood, compromised a child’s myelin formation, essential to its brain development. “Furthermore, iron also helps the synthesis of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to our body cells. Children especially need these physiological functions in order to study and explore their worlds properly,” she said during the webinar. Saptawati said that, again, disruptions to these body functions at an early age could result in irreversible learning and motoric system problems, causing children to be physically weak and passive, not to mention compromising their overall immune system, making them susceptible to various illnesses. This article was published in with the title "Working collaboratively to tackle anemia among pregnant women, teenage girls ". Click to read: Download The Jakarta Post app for easier and faster news access: Android: iOS:


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