Schools and community-based early childhood learning centres are crucial players in addressing stunting issues in Indonesia by implementing appropriate food and nutrition education programs. This was highlighted by SEAMEO RECFON’s Deputy Director for Program, Dr Jess Fernandez, during his presentation as one of the plenary speakers at the 6th International Public Health Symposium organized by the Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) on 6-7 November 2019 in Jogjakarta.
Dr Fernandez shared the experiences of SEAMEO RECFON’s Nutrition Goes to School (NGTS) and Early Childhood Care, Nutrition, and Education (ECCNE) Programs in mobilizing schools and communities for stunting prevention in Indonesia. In his presentation, Dr Fernandez articulated the nutrition sensitive and nutrition specific aspects within the various components of the two programs that deal with several underlying causes of malnutrition including stunting.
Since 2017, the NGTS Program has built the capacities of 6,426 school teachers at all levels in Indonesia on proper food and nutrition through inside and outside classroom activities. The Program has been providing mentoring to school teachers to incorporate food and nutrition concepts in their lesson plans, build school garden as a medium for nutrition education, establish healthy school canteens and school meal activities to develop good eating habits among students, and promote good hygiene and sanitation practices within the school. The Program had already developed learning modules on nutrition education for primary and secondary school children. The Program had also conducted a research on the eating behaviors of female adolescent school children and generated local food-based recommendations to address anemia cases and improve their nutritional status as future mothers.
The Centre’s ECCNE Program, on the other hand, focuses on developing models of integrated implementation of essential components of childcare and parenting to optimize child growth and development which involves community-based early childhood learning centres. Dr Fernandez shared the Program’s experiences since 2018 in building the capacities of teachers of early childhood education centres, including parents of under-two year-old children and community health workers on the ECCNE framework and on stunting prevention in Malang district, East Java and Sambas district, West Kalimantan. He also discussed about the Program’s research on formulating food-based recommendations from locally available nutrient-dense food sources and implement feeding trials, in collaboration with community health centres in the two districts, to address the nutrient gaps among toddlers and ensure their proper cognitive and physical growth.
Dr Fernandez concluded his presentation by posing the challenge to the public health sector and academe to strengthen their link and develop programs with schools and community learning centres to tackle stunting in Indonesia.
The symposium is an annual event of UGM’s Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine. This year, the symposium adopted the theme “Multi-sectoral and Multi-disciplinary Approach in Preventing and Managing Stunting.”