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Preventive Med supports local pediatric nutrition assessment

By Maria Pinel Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

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Personnel from the Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element worked with Honduran counterparts from the Ministry of Health from June 14-15, 2017 for the second part of an ongoing pediatric nutrition study in communities of La Paz, Honduras.

The mission was to assess the nutritional status of children from the ages of six months to 60 months in remote areas of La Paz to determine the overall nutritional status of the village itself as part of an initiative from the U.S. Agency for International Development, MEDEL and the Honduran MOH. 

“The villages for the assessment were selected by the regional health director in La Paz. We then went to the places and requested the vaccination records and randomly selected children less than 5 years of age,” said Dr. Guillermo Saenz, medical liaison with JTF-Bravo MEDEL. 

The assessment has been divided between two large villages in La Paz selected for their remote location, with the first portion of the study done in May in Santa Rosita and the second part in June in San Antonio de Guajiquiro, where they collected data for two days in each location. 

“The theory is that if we can ascertain what the nutritional status is on infants and children it will give us a good indicator on how well the village is doing with the hope and goal that if we can mitigate the nutritional deficits or protein deficits then the children will do better in school and the village will prosper,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rhonda Dyer, preventive health nurse from JTF-Bravo MEDEL. 

The data collected from the children included anthropometric measurements, hemoglobin values and physical assessments. The children also received vitamins, antibiotics and antimicrobials as necessary; the mothers of these children, if pregnant or lactating, received prenatal vitamins.

“There are ladies that carry their children two hours up a mountain to come see us. We were looking for a specific age of infants to determine their nutritional status but if a mother brought a child that was in our study group but also brought two of his siblings we saw all three,” said Dyer. “You have to admire the dedication of a parent to walk through rugged terrain carrying a 20 or 30 pound child with them so we saw everybody who came to us.” 

The first mission had one out of three children be chronically malnourished and anemic when checking their hemoglobin, biometrics and the relationship between their height, weight and age.

During the second part of the assessment a total number of 61 children were treated including 9 percent of the total number receiving medication and supplements for anemia and others referred for fever, infections, seizures and congenital anomalies. The second location though more remote had less severe cases of malnourishment among the children. 

“The commitment made by the MOH is that they will provide follow up. Once we have the information we pass it on to the regional health director, who passes it to the health centers and they are in charge of tracking them down and following up,” said Saenz. 

Lt. Col. Dyer confirmed that they have already provided the statistics for the first mission in Santa Rosita and that they are still gathering the data from San José. Once the data is compiled it will be provided to the Ministry of Health so they can provide supplements to the villages in need. 

“If we can determine, if it’s a protein deficiency or a nutritional deficit in general, and we can give that information to the MOH and they can act upon it then that helps the whole village,” said Dyer.

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