Teach children to eat well to prevent stunted growth, says economist

Economist Woo Wing Thye says the government should educate the people on the importance of nutrition.

PETALING JAYA: An economist has dismissed the notion that stunted growth among Malaysian children is linked to poverty.

Instead, Woo Wing Thye, the director of the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development, blamed the education system, citing a 2020 Sustainable Development Solutions Network report which showed that Malaysia performed poorly in preventing undernourishment.

He said some previous studies had indicated that poverty was a main cause but this was not so.

“Stunting does not occur just in poor people; it also happens to the very rich in Malaysia,” he said in a webinar on Malaysia’s progress in achieving sustainable development.

Woo Wing Thye

Woo said the government should reform the school syllabus and have nutritional training for educators.

“We teach people what food is acceptable for their religion, but we should also educate them on nutrition that benefits their spiritual being and physical selves,” he said.

“The question should not be ‘have you eaten enough’, but ‘have you eaten food that is good for your body’.”

The recently released National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 showed that the number of stunted children had increased from 17.7% in 2015 to 21.8% in 2019.

The survey also revealed that 95% of adults did not consume enough fruits and vegetables.