On March 22, Viet Nam's Ministry of Health launched the National Guideline on Nutrition for Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers, with technical and financial support from global healthcare company Abbott.
Dr. Nguyen Duc Vinh, director of the Maternal and Child Health Department, Ministry of Health, and MD. Low Yen Ling, director of R&D at Abbott’s Asia Pacific Nutrition Research & Development Centre, Singapore, shared the expected impact of the guideline on healthcare in Viet Nam.
Dr. Vinh, though Viet Nam has made impressive progress towards improving the nutritional status of children, the country still faces many challenges in reducing malnutrition rate. What are the factors leading to the situation?
Actually, Viet Nam has achieved the target of reducing the rate of acute malnutrition stated in the Millennium Development Goals. However, the rate of chronic malnutrition is still high according to WHO’s report. According to UNICEF’s report announced in December 2016, the rate of acute malnutrition in children was 14.5 per cent in 2014 and chronic malnutrition was 23.9 per cent.
One of the direct causes is the limitation in nutritional care for children during the first 1000 days, along with nutritional care for pregnant women and lactating mothers. Moreover, a large number of pregnant women and lactating mothers in Viet Nam do not have proper awareness and knowledge of nutrition, which leads to improper nutritional practices. Besides this, medical staff specialising in obstetrics and pediatrics also have limited access to the latest knowledge and skills associated with nutrition, resulting in ineffective counseling and support to help people change their habits with regard to nutritional practices.
Therefore, the “National Guideline on Nutrition for Pregnant and Lactating Mothers," issued and implemented with the support of Abbott Vietnam, is one of the practical activities of the Ministry of Health to address this issue to effectively implement the National Strategy on Nutrition for the 2011-2020 period with vision to 2030, and was approved by the Prime Minister.
Were there any difficulties encountered while developing this guideline?
During the development of the guideline, the Ministry of Health leveraged the participation of many leading experts in three areas -- obstetrics, pediatrics, and nutrition. The content of the guideline should be backed with science, yet still relevant to the local people and particularly applicable for healthcare providers working at different medical facilities. Many topics in the guideline are highly practical in nature and are required to be updated frequently, such as nutrition for pregnant women who suffer from diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, we are pleased to receive close support and cooperation from professors and leading experts in the fields of nutrition, obstetrics and pediatrics, and especially technical and financial support from Abbott Vietnam.
Can you share more about the expected economic and social impact of this guideline on Viet Nam's healthcare in the long term?
We hope the implementation of this guideline, along with other nutritional intervention by the healthcare sector, will improve the nutritional status of pregnant women and lactating mothers, thereby contributing to boosting the nutritional status of Vietnamese children and achieving the goals of the National Strategy on Nutrition approved by the Prime Minister. This is also the contribution of the health sector to the country's socio-economic development through building a high-quality human resource from the onset of an individual’s life.
MD. Low Yen Ling, could you please explain more about how nutrition for mothers during pregnancy and breastfeeding affects children’s development?
Abbott supports the nutrition needs of all mothers and babies – whether the mom is pregnant, breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or both. We study in detail babies' nutrition needs from conception through childhood because we know good nutrition at this time builds the foundation for a child’s ability to learn, grow and thrive. A recent study on “Impact of Maternal Milk Supplementation on Birth Outcomes & Breastfeeding Success” was designed to evaluate the effects on the birth outcome and breastfeeding performance in Vietnamese mothers who were part of a lactation support programme and consumed Similac Mom twice daily from pregnancy to three months post-delivery during breastfeeding. The study showed that these mothers who drank two glasses of Similac Mom daily experienced benefits such as healthier babies and reaching standard growth results (weight, head circumference) and were more likely to exclusively breastfeed successfully.
Can you share your view on the expected benefits that the guideline would bring to Vietnamese pregnant women and lactating mothers?
This guideline is a great initiative of the Viet Nam Ministry of Health toward enhancing healthcare for mothers and babies. This will help HCPs working in the areas of obstetrics and gynecology. Further, members of the Viet Nam Women's Union can understand the impact of nutritional supplements on mothers during pregnancy and lactation. Nowadays, more and more clinical studies prove that nutritional supplements play an important role in delivering good growth results in the next generation. Viet Nam is aware of this and is turning it into a guideline to be implemented on a national scale. We believe once this programme is implemented throughout Viet Nam, it will help improve the health of children, who are the future generation of Viet Nam.