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NUTRITION POLICY RESEARCH FORUM

May 22, 2018

Speaker Montilla Hall, South Wing Annex Building

House of Representatives

 

In his opening remarks, CPBRD Director-General Romulo E. M. Miral, Jr. noted that in most policy areas, there is always a trade-off between promoting equity and higher efficiency.  There is no such trade-off in nutrition policy.  He said the close link between poverty and malnutrition as shown by some studies that showed the economic and non-economic impacts of poor nutrition.  He also explained that the House of Representatives recently passed on third reading the bill, or the “Healthy Bulilit and Nanay” Act which focuses on the first 1,000 days and promote health care and proper nutrition to ensure not only the present health condition of both mother and child but also their future as productive individuals. 

Dr. Alejandro “Alex” Herrin presented on “Preventing Child Stunting: The Challenge of Mobilizing LGUs for National Impact.”  Dr. Herrin noted that data in the last 20 years show slow progress in preventing child stunting and poverty contributed to the slow progress in reducing stunting rates, among other causes. He cited the assessment done by the National Nutrition Council (NNC) which found the lack of mobilization of LGUs as an operational gap in the nutrition problem.  Not many LGUs have strong nutrition programs which may be due to low support from other government agencies. 

To make headway in addressing the problem of stunting, Dr. Herrin recommended addressing the challenge of mobilizing LGUs.  He said that technical assistance and grants might help augment LGUs finances to implement nutrition programs.  The NHTS can also help identify the poor and then let delivery networks provide the services.  Dr. Herrin emphasized giving priority to accountability, but this should be supported by a law defining the responsibility of service providers and to which agency they will be accountable.

Dr. Roehlano Briones presented the results of his study on “Ending Hunger and Malnutrition in the Philippines” and noted that the Philippines had adopted the Sustainable Development Goal number 2 to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.  However, the country is doing, and malnutrition has become a grave health crisis. The country’s stunting rate is still high at 33.5% or some 3.6 million stunted children, and the country has only 12 years to close the gap.  Some of the reasons for this are poverty and failure of programs.  The sector also suffers from deficiencies in governance and service delivery, lack of resources and little to no accountability among the implementors of nutrition programs. 

To close the gap and achieve SDG 2, Briones recommended the development of food systems geared towards availability and affordability of food, better incomes for the poorest sectors mainly farmers and food producers, and diversification of diets.  Food trade policies should be more open than the present systems to increase the options for affordability.  Dr. Briones also recommended a more expanded role for the private sector in addressing food security and nutrition.  He also recommended leveraging the social protection programs like the 4Ps to help end the nutrition problems in children.  Briones also proposed an Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Council that will tighten all food and nutrition programs, a system of accountability towards results-based monitoring and management of achieving SDG 2, and an “end hunger” fund that will mobilize both public and private funds. 

Dr. Gabriel Demombynes of the World Bank presented on Nutrition in the Philippines.  He cited the experience of Peru, which managed to cut its stunting rate in half a decade because its leaders focused and prioritized the issue and came up with a coherent program to reduce the problem.  For the Philippines, Dr, Demombynes said that the country needs good data on nutrition on the provincial level so it can prioritize policy interventions.  He also noted the issue of accountability on the part of the LGUs and other actors in implementing food programs.  He recommended using the CCT as an incentive to push families to get involved in nutrition programs for their children.

Open Forum:

Dir. Bangsal asked whether there has been any study on the impact of school feeding programs on stunting and wasting. Dr. Herrin said that the PIDS did two studies on the implementation and impact of the program.  Dr. Briones added that the studies showed that there was a reduction in wasting over the school year but slid back during school break and become noticeable when kids go back to school. Dr. Demombynes said that based on international experience, such programs have value and they ensure that children come to school with energy to learn but not in addressing stunting which is determined in the early years.

Cong. Leo Rafael M. Cueva noted that stunting is not discussed in the barangay level and there should be a study on the level of knowledge on nutrition of leaders at the barangay level.  He said that his committee has a bill, “National Food Security Act” that will consolidate all programs on food and nutrition and recommends to place the National Nutrition Council under the Office of the President.  Dr. Briones said that BHWs are aware of the problem, but they are more focused on the Operation Timbang (OPT) and need more training to measure stunting which is very hard to do.  Dr. Herrin said that the concept of stunting might not be understood by many and the focus is more on the underweight problem and lack of micronutrients among children.  He added that the barangay nutrition scholar might help families address stunting, but they also need training. Dr. Demombynes said that the issue of stunting is still new at the national level and not yet thoroughly discussed at the local level.

Dr. Miral noted that the government has the policies to address nutrition issues but lack implementation, as well as poor coordination among the actors. While the local chief executive is in the best position to deliver, Dr. Miral asked who is ultimately the best to be responsible.   Herrin answered that there should be inter-LGU cooperation for nutrition programs to address the fragmentation of service delivery. The fragmentation of financing also contributes to the problem since the LGUs that have the least financial capacity also have the biggest nutrition problem.  The government may provide grants to such LGUs or identify target groups and contract private providers who will deliver the necessary services.  Dr. Herrin said that the province should lead the effort and coordinate with the national government.  Dr. Briones the municipality or city should take the lead, and the province can help.

Ms. Marivic Samson of the NNC said that the implementation of OPT+, particularly the measurement of stunting is stymied by the lack of height boards to use that is why they only do weight measurement. 

 

Other comments from the participants include the use of communication intervention to solve the problem of information, give financial incentives if LGUs meet their targets, and to invest in Health Human Resource.

 

PROGRAMME
1:00 PM - 1:30 PM                  Registration
1:30 PM - 1:40 PM National Anthem / Invocation
1:40 PM - 1:50 PM

OPENING REMARKS

DR. ROMULO E.M. MIRAL, JR.

Director General

CPBRD, House of Representatives

1:50 PM - 2:35 PM

PRESENTATIONS

Preventing Child Stunting: Issues of Implementation

DR. ALEJANDRO HERRIN

Proffesor, University of the Philippines

 

World Food Programme Food Security Report

DR. ROEHLANO BRIONES 

Senior Research Fellow, PIDS

 

STANDING TALL Peru's Successful policy against child chronic malnutrition

The World Bank Study on Nutrition in the Philippines (in progress)

DR. GABRIEL DEMOMBYNES

Program Leader for Human Development, World Bank

2:35PM - 3:45 PM Open Forum

MODERATOR

NOVEL V. BANGSAL

Director, Social Policy Research Service

CPBRD

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