LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Based on the 2022 Operation Timbang (OPT) results, Benguet reached a 5.55 percent prevalence rate for stunting which is below the regional target at 9.58 percent. However, the municipalities of Atok, Kapangan, and Kibungan showed 10.19 percent, 15.80 percent, and 9.89 percent prevalence rates, respectively, which are higher than the regional target. Further, based on the 2021 Local Health Scorecard results, there was an increase in the prevalence rate of stunting in the province, from 6.17 percent in 2020 to 7.13 percent in 2021.
Gov. Melchor Diclas, who is also a medical doctor by profession, found it ironic that in terms of the Human Development Index, Benguet is number one, and yet has cases of stunting. In order to understand the situation on stunting, he and his provincial health team visited two families in Caliking, Atok whose children are stunted. The visit is a deep dive learning journey that is part of the Bayang Malusog or Provincial Leadership Development Program (PLDP) of the Department of Health Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) and the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF), which the Governor is currently enrolled in.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) stunting happens in early life, at least from the first 1000 days, characterized by impaired growth and development as a result of poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are considered stunted if their “height-for-age” is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.
In his visit, the Governor found that one of the children has poor appetite, while the other has Ankyloglossia or tongue-tie, a condition where the tongue is unusually structured with its tip closely connected through a thick band of tissue to the floor of the mouth, greatly affecting the child’s feeding, swallowing, and speaking. Other than that, the governor noted that at least the two children were fully immunized and not sickly, and that their parents are willing to bring them to the Rural Health Unit (RHU) for check – up. The two children are just among the 143 stunted children in Atok under close monitoring of the RHU.
According to the governor, farming alone cannot sustain food security and the nutritional needs of the children. “Let’s aim for a better life for Benguet,” he added. Thus, he identified the need to provide additional livelihood to ensure more income that would bring in sufficient food for the family and create a packaged program specific for families with stunted children. He said he will revisit existing health programs and infuse more funding to these; expand the membership of the Provincial Nutrition Council, strengthen primary health care, enhance data monitoring, and capacitate the grassroots. The RHU will also refer the child with Ankyloglossia to a specialist for proper intervention.
Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, since 2009, Benguet obtained the highest human development index (HDI) in the Cordillera Administrative Region at 0.883; and in 2019, it topped the nationwide provincial HDI ranks at 0.88. The HDI focuses on the three dimensions of human development – long and healthy life, knowledge, and decent standard of living. It is with these dimensions that the event of stunting in at least three municipalities of the province should not be neglected. By DOH-CAR