People love to talk about facts; while most adults discuss the changes in government, inflation rates, and the worsening traffic in the metropolis, the trend and facts on certain aspects in our lives remain the same: Filipinos are struggling with issues and concerns on health and nutrition. Leading causes of child mortality have consistently been pneumonia, diarrhea, and vaccine-preventable diseases. [i]
The importance of human breast milk consumption and correct health practices has been highlighted since time immemorial, and despite the familiarity, science and research continue to define the secrets in the potency of human milk.
Health.Care magazine had the chance to sit down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Jose Rodolfo “Jun” Dimaano, Asia-Pacific Medical Director of Abbott Nutrition, who shared his expertise on these issues and concerns on maternal and child health and nutrition.
What would you consider are the pressing factors that influence maternal, child health, and nutrition in our country?
We have to consider the first 1,000 days, from the moment the mother becomes pregnant until her child reaches 2 years of age. This means that the nutritional requirements of any woman in their reproductive age should be considered, prepared, and maintained at optimal levels as the demands become greater especially during her pregnancy. Now, the child should likewise receive proper care and nourishment because of the accelerated growth and development processes after birth and beyond. Among other things, I think the pressing issues and concerns that influence these factors are first, the lack of available sources and resources for proper nutrition, and secondly, the lack of adequate information and food preferences among mothers.
In addition to growth and development issues, how else can nutrition be of importance to the child?
During this golden period of accelerated growth and development, we either set the child for future failure or success. The child that we take care of today will become an adult and expected to be a productive member of society. The window of opportunity becomes a point of vulnerability when neglected, and proper child nutrition is something that we can control and manipulate, together with proper child stimulation, a loving environment and later, education and interaction with other kids. All of these will affect the future of the child. In other words, proper child nutrition early in life is an investment that will be realized in the future.
I like your proposal that there are things that we can control, modify, and even manipulate when it comes to proper child care and nutrition. In this regard, what are the measures your company is taking to be relevant in this situation?
Abbott has 3 main activities: 1) Education and Training, 2) Research and Development, and 3) Nutrition Awareness in hospitals. Abbott has a long line of Oral Nutritional Supplements that help normal children to function better while supplementing the nutrition of those who are undernourished. After 15 years of research, our RND center in Singapore has recently launched an Oral Nutritional Supplement with Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO), a form of sugar present in human milk that is shown to provide benefits to children by its actions in the gut, namely: providing food for the good bacteria in the intestinal ecosystem, acting as decoy receptor for bad bacteria to attach and be excreted from the intestines, and functioning as an immunomodulator to increase a child’s immune system. Our Research and Development Team has provided innovations to guarantee that all of our milk formulas contain the power of 3 nutrients: DHA, lutein, natural vitamin E, and now HMO.
With the pressing issues on child health and nutrition, your company is providing Oral Nutritional Supplements (ONS) that would help children perform better while supplementing the undernourished. And all your ONS are backed up by science and research that provides DHA, lutein, natural vitamin E, and recently Human Milk Oligosaccharides. How do you ensure that this formulation is acceptable to kids?
In addition to our Research and Development team in Singapore, the Market Research Team considered palatability; even if we have the science, child compliance is a major and crucial factor. Taste testing among children of different sizes, races, ages, and shapes was part of those whom we got feedback, and so far, our products were palatable and acceptable to these age groups. And we also advise parents to be creative and imaginative in their preparation of Oral Nutritional Supplements; some make fruit shakes, others blend the formula with different food combinations, making it attractive to look at and more enticing to take. Lastly, I would say to mothers that nutrition is an investment for the health and future of the child. It’s like the Pareto chart, where 80% of the future depends on the 20% of the first few years of a child, a golden window of opportunity where we can control, modify, and manipulate our activities to provide society with a potential adult.
Dr. Dimaano initially emphasized health and nutrition issues, then transcended to investing on proper products that are solidly backed up by science and research to guarantee that the child of today becomes a productive member of society in the future.
[i] Department of Health, Philippines. Child Mortality Report 2010