Good Nutrition through Good Governance and Teamwork
Many advertisements are trying to sell products that purportedly help improve the health of\ buyers. But, Limasawa’s program on proper nutrition and healthy living seems to be much more effective in convincing people to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
Limasawa’s LGU was able to accomplish this feat by developing an innovative nutrition plan with clearly defined roles for the stakeholders. This plan aimed to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition among preschool and school children and promote healthy living among adults. The plan was designed with the help of the Municipal Nutrition Committee (MNC), which is multisectoral and is composed of the Sangguniang Bayan Members, National Agency representatives, Municipal Government Department Heads, Barangay Captains, School Administrators and non-government organization representatives.
The Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office spearheaded the feeding program for the malnourished pre-school and schoolchildren. Meanwhile, the Barangay Nutrition Scholars and Elementary School Class Advisers were tasked to monitor the weekly growth status of the pre-school children and the monthly weighing of the schoolchildren.
The Women’s Health Teams (WHTs) and Breastfeeding Support Groups (BSGs) were tasked to monitor the children’s nutritional status from womb to birth. Pregnant women were closely tracked to ensure that they complete their prenatal visits and develop their birth plans in cooperation with the Rural Health Unit (RHU). A “Healthy Baby Contest” was regularly held to promote exclusive breastfeeding.
Interestingly, the fathers were also trained about the proper care and feeding of infants and schoolchildren. Under the “Tatay Ko, Kaagapay sa Kalusogan Ko” Program, the fathers in the barangays are gathered every quarter for a lecture on good nutrition, breastfeeding and responsible parenthood.
Under the “Gulay Bawat Bahay, Hahaba Ang Buhay” Program, households, schools and barangays were encouraged to maintain vegetable gardens for household consumption. The Municipal Agriculture Limasawa, Southern Leyte Poor Municipality Can Eliminate Malnutrition Office (MAO) provided seeds, seedlings, planting\ materials and technical assistance. To motivate the residents and school children, cash prizes were awarded to winners of the “Best Barangay Garden” and the “Best School Garden” contests that were organized yearly by the MAO.
Livelihood skills trainings were also provided to families with malnourished children so they can augment their income and buy sufficient food. In addition, motor bancas with fishing gear were given to these families.
Every quarter, residents who are 20 years old and above are encouraged to report to the Barangay Nutrition Outpost for the calculation of their Body Mass Index (BMI). Those categorized as at risk, overweight and obese are then urged to participate in the “Healthy Lifestyle” campaign. An Executive Order was issued requiring Municipal Officials and Employees to participate in an hour-long exercise session every Monday afternoon and sports activities every Friday afternoon. The municipality also holds a “Biggest Loser” contest to encourage people to lose weight.
To promote proper hygiene among its residents, the LGU launched the “Handog Pamasko sa LGU” Program. Households without toilets were given a toilet bowl, a bag of cement and iron bars so that they can build their own under the supervision of the Rural Sanitary Inspector.
With these programs in place, the residents of Limasawa are now healthier than before. The regular supplemental feeding helped bring up the nutritional status of children from below normal to normal. The prevalence of malnutrition among pre-school children went down from a high of 8.8% in 2004 to 2.61% in 2009 and from 6.0% to 2.17% among school children. The close tracking of pregnant women by the RHU resulted in a zero mortality rate since 2007. Almost all infants from 0-6 months old were also exclusively breastfed.
In just a few years, food production in the locality blossomed to a point where the need for vegetable supply in the municipality was also addressed.Remarkably, the household gardens used organic fertilizer from the vermiculture project to produce the varieties of vegetables.
To augment its limited budget, the LGU used various fund generation schemes such as solicitations, raffle draws, placing coin banks in strategic places for donations, fines from illegal fishing, diving fees and forging partnerships with donors.
Just recently, Limasawa earned the Nutrition Honor Award—the first for Region VIII—given by the National Nutrition Council. For a 6th class island municipality, eliminating malnutrition is quite a feat, but one that is easily replicated. Among the key factors to the program’s success are innovative strategies, eliciting active community participation and judicious enactment of ordinances.