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Danone Study Reveals One-Third Of Malaysian Children At Risk Of Anaemia

Danone’s Iron Strong Study reveals that one-third of Malaysian children aged below 4-years-old are at risk of anaemia. Both urban and rural children are identified as susceptible to anaemia.

(From left) Prof Dr Hamid Jan, Nutrition Programme, School of Health Sciences at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Dr Sri Wahyu Taher, Consultant Family Medicine Specialist and Head of Clinic at Klinik Kesihatan Simpang Kuala, Alor Setar, Kedah, Vera Saw, ISEA Specialised Nutrition Unit (SNU) Director, Danone, Norazman Othman, Director-General of Social Welfare, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Dr Tee E Siong, President, Nutrition Society of Malaysia, Prof Dr Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin, Senior Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist and Deputy Dean (Undergraduate Studies), Faculty of Medicine, University Malaya, and Dr Selva Kumar Sivapunniam, President of Malaysian Paediatric Association, at the video launch of the Iron Strong Study. Picture courtesy of Danone.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 – Danone, a leading food company and one of the world’s largest dairy companies, revealed the key findings of its Iron Strong Study in conjunction with the Nutrition Society Malaysia 38th Annual Scientific Conference held in Kuala Lumpur.

The Iron Strong study was conducted in collaboration with Clinical Investigation Centre, University Malaya Medical Centre, and led by senior consultant paediatric endocrinologist and deputy dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University Malaya, Prof Dr Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin, who is also the principal investigator.

Iron deficiency anaemia, or IDA, is a major global health concern, with developing countries experiencing a higher prevalence than developed countries, at a higher rate of three to four times.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), young children are most affected by this nutritional deficiency. In 2019, the global prevalence of anaemia among children aged below 59 months was 39.8 per cent, meaning 269 million children were affected.

In 2022, 46.5 per cent of Malaysian children under the age of 59 months are anaemic.

The Iron Strong Study is the first of its kind; a multi-site clinical study conducted using a non-invasive tool specifically to address anaemia, which is caused mainly by iron deficiency.

In this complex health landscape, tackling issues such as IDA necessitates collaborative and transformative strategies in nutritional care. This groundbreaking initiative is part of Danone’s commitment to combating malnutrition, highlighting the urgent need for early intervention.

The company has been establishing partnerships with healthcare professionals and engaging with communities to drive positive change to improve health and nutrition across the globe, reflecting the company’s global One Health Agenda.

“The findings of our Iron Strong Study shine a spotlight on the severity of anaemia among children in Malaysia.

“Our collaborative effort with Clinical Investigation Centre, University Malaya Medical Centre is a testament to our dedication to advocating for better nutrition and promoting proactive health screening, as well as setting the groundwork for strategic intervention plans and defining appropriate collective measures to address the issue as part of our One Health Agenda in Malaysia,” said Vera Saw, Specialised Nutrition Unit (SNU) director for India and Southeast Asia at Danone.

Unlocking the Iron Strong Study involved 1,201 outpatient Malaysian children below 36 months across randomly selected government health clinics in the region.

The clinical study utilised a non-invasive screening device for total haemoglobin. It provides insightful information that can help improve the health and wellbeing of young children and understand the associated risk factors, including socio-demographic factors that contribute to anaemia.

Conducted across several regions in Malaysia, the findings from the clinical study will further help to raise awareness of this critical issue and provide a solution to improve the nutrition status in Malaysia and emphasis the importance of early intervention through proactive screening for anaemia by including it as part of primary care health screening programmes. 

The study’s key findings found that Malaysian young children are at higher risk of being anaemic than older children, while underweight children are likely anaemic. Notably, urban and rural children are at risk of anaemia.

“Malnutrition significantly contributes to iron deficiency anaemia, culminating in irreversible growth complications among Malaysian children.

“The implications extend beyond physical growth, affecting cognitive development and immune function. By identifying and addressing risk factors early through routine screenings, we can significantly mitigate the impact of nutrient deficiencies on children,” said Dr Yazid.

IDA occurs when iron is not enough to support healthy red cells production. Iron is crucial for developing red blood cells and plays a vital role in the growth and functioning of the brain.

Children who suffer from IDA may exhibit various symptoms, including lack of focus, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, brittle nails, and pale skin. Not treating the condition promptly can lead to severe health complications, including organ failure.

Danone remains unwavering in its support for Malaysian families as they navigate the health and nutritional challenges prevalent in today’s society. The company is leading several initiatives, including:

  • Dugro’s Generasi Kuat Zat Besi roadshow is an extensive nationwide event to raise
    awareness of the importance of iron in children’s nutrition and promote the generation of iron strong kids. The roadshow provides a free, non-invasive anaemia screening and consultation. 
  • Fostering robust collaborations with health care partners with a dual purpose – firstly, to escalate anaemia by promoting nationwide proactive screening as part of existing health screening programmes in primary health care setting, and secondly, to educate about iron and micronutrient deficiencies among parents and caregivers.
  • Leveraging its resources and expertise to use non-invasive devices that measure haemoglobin levels, eliminating the need for traditional, invasive blood-draw methods.
  • Engaging with health care professionals and NGOs. These cross-disciplinary
    partnerships allow us to evaluate where and when Danone’s support can have the most significant impact, ensuring Danone’s capability to address critical needs as they arise.

Click here for more information about Dugro’s Generasi Kuat Zat Besi and other initiatives.

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