Many children are getting adequate calories overall, but they’re not getting a good balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. It’s important for all children to receive a good balance of macronutrients and micronutrients.
It’s also important to measure each child’s growth and hemoglobin over time. These measurements can help you identify a nutritional deficiency.
Watch this video and download the resources below to learn how you can ensure each child receives all their nutrients and measure each child’s height, weight, and hemoglobin over time.
I want to talk a bit about nutrition.
In many places, children rely on food that’s donated. In some cases they’re getting adequate calories overall, but they’re not getting enough of the balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. What I mean by that is that sometimes they’re getting a lot of carbohydrates—perhaps a lot of rice, a lot of potato, a lot of bread—but not getting a lot of protein.
What we find are specific types of malnutrition. You all may have seen this before when a child has a belly that is quite bloated. Perhaps they have a bit of swelling in the legs or swelling in other parts of the body that indicates that they’ve got a protein malnutrition, not getting enough calories from all sources.
Micronutrient deficiencies, you all may have seen as well—particularly vitamin A, zinc, and iron deficiencies—occur when children are not getting a large variety of foods.
Many times, I’m asked, “Couldn’t we just give a bunch of multi-vitamins to these children and continue to feed them rice?” That actually can be quite harmful to a child who’s not getting a good spectrum of macro/micronutrients.
For example, a child with thalassemia will end up having a liver toxicity if they get iron supplements.
Sometimes when we are looking at a group of children that have low hemoglobin levels, the initial thought is to give more iron. In fact you can harm a child if they are deficient in these micro/macronutrients and are receiving too much iron.
We look at the children’s growth to see how well they are assimilating to good nutrition.
When I first started working with the Miracle Foundation, I often heard from different groups of people that maybe children in this area are just smaller than American kids and that’s normal. Maybe for children who live in poverty, it’s normal just to have a low hemoglobin level.
What I’ve set out to do is elevate this standard to an international standard.
To do that, I’ve looked at the WHO and their international standards for growth for children around the world. These standards were based on children from every continent in the world and was looked at over many, many years. We know that there is a normal standard in any country no matter where that child is living, and that hemoglobin levels should always be over 11 g/dL.
We look at the hemoglobin levels on a regular basis for all the children that we’re caring for so that we can make sure that, not only are they getting adequate nutrition, but they’re assimilating it properly.
We’re also measuring each child’s height and weight over a period of time to make sure that they are growing adequately and also at the acceleration that we would expect any child to be growing at in any country in the world.
These measurements allow us to quickly step in and identify a nutritional deficiency or a way to add in protein at a given location.
If we’re seeing a trend of children that are falling off the growth chart or not growing at the accelerated rate that we’re expecting, we look for a parasite in the area that we need to treat. Deworming programs will quickly get the children back onto the growth chart or we’ll see that hemoglobin levels start to normalize once we’ve made a nutritional intervention or a treatment of a parasite in one given area.
Because we’ve been collecting data on each of the children for more than a decade, we’ve created a true methodology on best practices around health care, sanitation, nutrition, clean water, and hygiene. We now have a whole toolkit of collected evidence from what works, what doesn’t work, and we’re able to put those into trainings that we can share with anyone caring for children around the world. These trainings will allow best practices to be shared.
We’ll continue to build on these works in progress, that is a labor of love for all of us around the world and ideally we’re all helping to elevate the standard of life for each child so that they are able to realize their rights and live with dignity.