Interview with our nutritionist

Patricia Georgina Flores is a clinical nutritionist with El Salvador’s Ministry of Health. Additionally she assesses children in residential care with NPH El Salvador and provides guidance on how best to ensure their healthy nutrition.

Patricia Georgina checking a girl’s weight

Malnutrition affects the majority of the children starting to receive care from NPH. We have to remember that family problems in their early years have left many of their basic needs unsatisfied. For NPH El Salvador it’s important to overcome this, so we evaluate the nutritional status of all children living at NPH. The aim is to take prompt action to eliminate malnutrition.

We ran a Q&A session with Patricia to get her expert take on nutrition at NPH El Salvador.

Q & A with clinical nutritionist Patricia Georgina Flores

What is the nutritional status of vulnerable children coming to NPH El Salvador?

The children arrive with various health issues. Malnutrition means that they routinely suffer recurring respiratory disorders, (requiring hospital treatment in the worst cases), as well as hair loss, anaemia and skin diseases.

What is the effect on boys and girls (taking into account gender differences)?

Girls are worse affected and are more vulnerable to malnutrition. Because of cultural norms around gender, they frequently have worse access to nutritious food and educational opportunities. In rural areas, girls routinely have to care for younger children while the mothers go with the men to work the fields or care for babies. Adolescent girls also require more iron because of sudden growth spurts and the onset of menstruation.

  • In the short term: Progressive weight loss, increased morbidity risk
  • Long term: Problems with neurological and psychomotor development, delayed adult growth, risk of acquiring chronic transmittable diseases such as tuberculosis, and non-transmittable diseases such as coronary disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
  • Malnutrition can reduce the capacity for learning of younger school children and can be a factor in truancy.
  • Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine and Vitamin A are related to cognitive deterioration and can result in learning difficulties.

How do you see the nutrition programme run by NPH?

NPH El Salvador’s nutrition programme is an important factor in the development of children receiving care from NPH, because every child’s nutritional status is evaluated individually. This gives us a benchmark and allows us to take steps to improve the children’s quality of life, ensuring their satisfactory development and preventing disease in the long term.

What type of food is included in the meals prepared for children with NPH?

Meals include the full range of nutrients in a balanced diet and take into account the needs of the children. They are designed to ensure sufficient intake of protein (to prevent retarded growth), carbohydrates for energy (though consumed to excess they can cause overweight) and a balanced intake of fat.

What is the nutrition status of the children and young people receiving care from NPH?

We evaluate the children under 18 in residential care with NPH in two groups: boys and girls.

  • The nutritional status of 73% of the boys is normal and healthy. 13% of the boys are overweight, 7% are obese, and the remaining 7% are undernourished.
  • 61% of the girls are nutritionally in good health, 36% are overweight, and 3% are obese.

Both overweight and obesity are risk factors for chronic non-transmittable diseases. The incidence of overweight has increased compared to the previous year.

The nutrition of each children is evaluated, and their diet is adjusted individually if they are showing signs of malnutrition or obesity.

NPH is developing treatment to ensure that all those in care achieve good health.

Tell us about measures NPH takes to counter overweight

At NPH El Salvador we evaluate eating habits to spot nutritional problems among the children and young people. The diet is based on their needs, delivering the calories that they require. We offer sports to promote physical activity, such as intramural games, tournaments and zumba sessions. We have made the gym freely available as an antidote to the sedentary lifestyle. For all our efforts, some remain overweight; they have little interest in such activities and just don’t want to take part.

Thank you to Patricia Georgina for sharing her thoughts on nutrition at NPH El Salvador.

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