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Triple trouble: The triple burden of child undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight in East Asia and the Pacific

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Research snapshot1

Young children in East Asia and the Pacific region are failing to thrive in large numbers as indicated by stagnation in the reduction of child undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies and a growing prevalence of overweight and obesity. To address the lack of data on the drivers of child malnutrition in the region, the UNICEF regional office for East Asia and the Pacific commissioned a series of papers in 2017 to 2019. These papers found that most of the 26 countries in the region have a double burden of stunting, overweight or anaemia and six countries suffer from all three (the ‘triple burden’). Poverty and inequality are the leading drivers of child malnutrition, with children often exposed to multi-dimensional forms of poverty, and poor maternal nutrition is a consistent predictor of stunting and wasting in the region.

However, national policies and programmes do not always address these key drivers and there is often still a focus on undernutrition alone rather than on the triple burden of malnutrition. Implications for future advocacy, policy and programme actions highlighted in the papers are as follows:

To address the drivers of the triple burden of maternal and child malnutrition, synergistic and accelerated change is needed through broader and bolder multi-sector approaches.

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1Blankenship L.J, Rudert C, Aguayo M.V. Triple trouble: Understanding the burden of child undernutrition micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight in East Asia and the Pacific. Maternal and Child Nutrition. 2020; 16(S2). https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.12950.

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Triple trouble: The triple burden of child undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight in East Asia and the Pacific. Field Exchange 65, May 2021. p70. www.ennonline.net/fex/65/eastasiapacificnutrition

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