In developing countries like Thailand, the double burdens of malnutrition (over and under nutrition) co-exist. It was our objective to review the maternal and child nutrition situation in response to the evolving improvement in the country’s economy as it changes from a low to a middle income (from a third world to a second world) country. This involved the comprehensive collation of two nationally representative sets of data on the prevalence and trends of key nutritional problems:
1. Food and nutrition survey: pregnant, lactating women and children under 5 years old
2. National health examination survey: population 15 years and older (all NCD’s were recorded)
Additional data on maternal and child nutrition include health and nutritional status was provided by UNICEF.
Key learnings from Thailand NutriPlanet study1
• There has been a significant decline in morbidity and mortality due to malnutrition in children <5 years
• There has been a significant decline in death due to common infection (diarrhoea and respiratory illness) in children <5 years.
• There has been a significant rise in obesity and metabolic syndrome; overweight and obesity incidence is at 13% among pre-school children
• Significant increase in availability of healthcare even in poor rural areas
• Thailand has very high breastfeeding initiation rates (85%); however, duration is short, declining rapidly between three-six months (from 31% to 7%), mainly due to mothers returning to work but also due to the cultural practice of early weaning at approximately four months
• Micronutrient deficiencies are major health concern among pregnant and lactating women (30% incidence); national supplementation programmes have been introduced to address the problem
• Significant decreases in undernutrition and stunting is matched with a significant increase in obesity and non-communicable diseases in both women and children.