Stunting: A Major Future Threat

by Agnes Krisantibullet
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Reviewed by dr. Koh Hau-Tek & Puspa W. Cahyono
Stunting: A Major Future Threat
Stunting: A Major Future Threat

"Stunting isn't just about height. What is most dangerous is children's low learning ability, mental retardation, and the emergence of chronic diseases," said President Joko Widodo. He invited the entire community to work together to reduce stunting in Indonesia.

Malnutrition and stunting

Malnutrition is the cause of nearly half of all child deaths. Especially children under the age of five. Malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child's life causes developmental problems known as stunting.

Stunting occurs when a child does not reach the WHO-recommended body length or height. The age range for measuring height is 0 to 59 months.

Stunting is a time-consuming process. It can occur while the baby is still in the womb and is only visible when the child is two years old. If the height is less than minus, the child has moderate or severe stunting. If it falls below -3, the child has chronic stunting.

The WHO growth standards for boys and girls differ, as does the age group. For example, the ideal length for boys aged 0-6 months is 50-65.5 cm. If the length is only 46-63 cm (below the minus), it is called moderate or severe stunting; if it is only 44-61 cm, it is called chronic stunting (minus three).

Stunting's symptoms and causes

Children are stunted if:

  • The height is lower than that of other children of the same age.
  • Their body proportions are usually normal, but they appear younger than their age.
  • Being underweight for his age.
  • Vulnerable to infectious diseases.
  • Bone growth is not optimal. For example, small bones and poor tooth growth.

Stunting should be measured. Avoid speculating. Furthermore, only with a one-to-one ratio.

Stunting is the result of a combination of some or all of the following factors.

  • Prolonged malnutrition. Malnutrition is not about being able to eat or not; it is about whether the food consumed provides nutrition that promotes optimal growth and development. Inhibition of intrauterine growth.

  • Conditions characterized by a fetus's slowed growth in the womb. It is distinguished by the fetus's size, which does not correspond to the gestational age standard.

  • Protein deficiency. Aside from being a source of energy, protein is essential for growth and aids in immune system function. Protein deficiency makes the body vulnerable to disease.

  • Hormonal change due to stress. Hormonal changes in pregnant women or babies affect growth rate. The trigger that is sometimes not realized, even when left unattended or ignored, is stress. A stress-free environment for pregnant women and babies must be pursued.

  • Frequently infected. Infection is caused by germs and is frequently associated with unsanitary conditions. It is best to avoid ignoring the cleanliness of the environment around pregnant women and babies. Germ activity in the body can interfere with growth.

Stunting is caused by more than just nutritional deficiencies. A country's people's socioeconomic situation is also a cause. The better a family's lifestyle, the more prosperous their life.

Why stunting must end

According to the 2018 Basic Health Research (Riskedas), 30.8% of Indonesians are stunted. Despite a decrease from 2013 (37.2%), Indonesia remains among the top middle-income countries in terms of stunting prevalence, trailing only Nigeria (36.7%), Bangladesh (26%), and Nepal (15.9%).

Stunting is not only a height issue, but also a cognitive issue. Stunting is said to inhibit brain development, making it less than ideal. As a result, children's cognitive and learning abilities are subpar.

Stunting not only has a negative impact on children's futures, but it is also a threat to the country's future. Imagine if there were more stunted children than non-stunted children. Of course, achieving general welfare is more difficult.

Stunting is frequently linked to other health issues. It even increases the risk factors for degenerative diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and infection-related death.

Stunting prevention efforts must begin as soon as possible. Nutritional intake during the first 1,000 days of life must be seriously considered.

Stunting prevention and 2025 global targets

According to the WHO, 178 million children under the age of five are stunted. According to the Ministry of Health, the prevalence of stunting in Indonesia has decreased from 24.4% in 2021 to 21.6% in 2022, as measured by the Indonesian nutritional status survey (SSGI). It is still too high. Another press is required.

Six global nutrition targets must be met by 2025, according to a 2012 World Health Assembly Resolution. One of them aims to cut global stunting rates by up to 40%.

Stunting prevention requires a collaborative effort. You can't simply blame it on the mother, the family, or the environment. Ensuring that babies and children grow up healthy needs national support.

Recognizing this, the president has set a goal of reducing stunting to 14% by 2024.

Stunting prevention measures proposed include:

1. Encourage good breastfeeding habits

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a child's life can help prevent digestive infections. The infection depletes nutrients, resulting in stunting. When breast milk is replaced with other food sources, such as formula milk, the baby would be vulnerable to diarrheal infections.

Breastfeeding after the child is two years old is also not recommended. At this stage, the child requires primary nutrition to help with development.

2. Improve the food quality for children

Food diversity can help children grow. Especially food derived from animals. According to research, families who can diversify their diet experience an increase in nutritional intake and a decrease in stunting.

3. Strive for and adopt good eating habits

Stunting prevention is influenced by and must include household, environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural factors. Make sure the food and cutlery are clean. Hand washing with soap before eating.

Other healthy habits should also be pursued. The ability of the family to select food can also help to prevent stunting.

One of the movements promoted by Indonesia to prevent stunting is GEMARIKAN, which is derived from "Gemar Makan Ikan," or likes to eat fish. Fish provides excellent protein for the growth and development of children. Even better than poultry and livestock.

We want our children to grow up healthy, strong, and smart. So we need to work together. Everyone cares. All synergize.

ReferenceIDAI. Accessed in 2023. Kurva Pertumbuhan WHO. Kementrian Kesehatan RI. Accessed in 2023. Dua Titik Penting Intervensi Stunting. Kementrian Kesehatan RI. Accessed in 2023. Mengenal Apa itu Stunting. Our World in Data. Accessed in 2023. What Is Childhood Stunting?