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Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science

Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science

Article Title

Observations of Malnutrition in Rural El Salvador

Specialty

Nutrition

Advisor

Nancy Reid

Abstract

Latin America has recently experienced the greatest reduction worldwide in the prevalence of undernutrition (and consequential stunting, low body weight, and wasting) and now has the highest prevalence of overweight and obese people worldwide.1 In 2012, World Health Organization (WHO) created “six global nutrition targets for 2025” in an attempt to improve the nutritional health of individuals worldwide.2 WHO admits to a lack of timely, high-quality data in many countries,2 which poses problems for identifying the severity of the issue and for effectively tracking progress towards their goals.

Physical examinations were performed on all members of six communities in Bajo Lempa, El Salvador to create a better understanding of nutrient and vitamin deficiencies in this population and draw possible correlations between physical health and foods consumed in this area. These same community members were observed and surveyed in order to better understand the potential causes and circumstances surrounding access to food, food options available, and control over food choices. Primary themes discovered through these studies included: lack of healthcare education, lack of access to preventive measures, lack of access to the necessary reactive treatment, diets with poor nutritional diversity and few nutritionally dense foods, feelings of poor control over food access, the stress associated with procuring food, and physical signs and symptoms that indicated primarily Vitamin A and C deficiencies.

Although many Latin American countries would benefit from achieving WHO’s Global Nutrition Targets, the countries are simply not tracking these parameters in a centralized and efficient manner, and, as a result, are unable to implement changes where there are apparent deficiencies. More efforts are needed to create or improve current nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific surveys and interventions to decrease malnutrition in Latin America, because the prevalence of stunting, anemia, low birth weight, overweight are still significant public health problems in these countries.1

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