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Educating Adolescent Females to Combat Infant Malnutrition

By: Yusli Harini, Health Team Leader

Malnutrition in infants often begins with insufficient growth, a cycle often initiated during a mother's teenage years. This crucial period makes females highly susceptible to malnutrition due to their distinct biological needs, whereas their nutritional status will significantly impact the likelihood of malnutrition in their future children.

In a 2019 field study of adolescent females aged 14-19 in Ban Village, a concerning trend was observed: these young girls exhibited lean bodies, indicating chronic energy deficiency, which amplifies the risk of malnutrition problems when they transition into pregnancy and motherhood, highlighting the urgent need for intervention and education to break this detrimental cycle.

Collaborating with experts from the Faculty of Medicine of Udayana University, we designed a targeted nutrition education approach to meet the specific needs of adolescent females. This approach involves interactive peer group activities, imparts essential nutritional knowledge: malnutrition issues during adolescence and its impact on the life cycle, establishing a positive body image to prevent eating disorder tendencies in young girls, and promoting nutritious diets to support the adolescent growth spurt and meet the body's heightened requirements. We shared this comprehensive knowledge in three stages through three consecutive monthly meetings.

We tested this approach on 64 females in 2021, 86 females in 2022, and an additional 86 females in 2023. The results were promising: teenagers gained awareness of the malnutrition issue affecting future pregnancies, witnessed enhanced self-esteem regarding body image among other adolescent females, and diversification in their dietary habits.

This initiative represents a crucial step in breaking the cycle of malnutrition, empowering adolescent females with knowledge and fostering healthy practices. By addressing this issue during a critical phase of life, we strive for a future where infant malnutrition becomes a rare concern, ensuring a brighter and healthier generation.

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