Monday, December 15, 2014
For Governments looking at ‘healthy’ returns on their investment, child nutrition could be a lucrative field. European research has found that every dollar spent on nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child's life could provide a country up to $166 in future earnings.
Published for the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, the paper states that children who are undernourished during the first 1,000 days of their lives show stunted growth patterns by 3 years and have poorer cognitive skills than their well-fed peers. As adults they are less educated, earn lower wages and report more health problems throughout their lives.
This paper looked at the effects of stunting on low to middle-income countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen and India. It revealed that 1 cm more of adult height for men was associated with an increase in their earnings by 2.4%. Among the countries, the cost-benefit ratio was the greatest in Indonesia, where every dollar spent on early childhood nutrition could provide the country $166 in future earnings.
"Height-for-age is a much better measure of health than weight-for-age. It is also predictive of economic outcomes," said Susan Horton, the lead researcher. She further added, “Over an adult's working life, we can expect that one dollar spent on early childhood nutrition will on average have $45 worth of benefits in low- and middle-income countries.”
The World Health Organization is presently aiming to reduce stunting among children under age five by 40 per cent as part of its 2025 nutrition goals. The issue of stunting is also likely to be included in its Sustainable Development Goals to be announced in 2015. Investment in child nutrition makes for a compelling economic motivation driving timely implementation of nutritional strategies. Prevention of stunting by providing early nutrition can improve the quality of life of not just the individual but also of the nation as a whole.
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