Some of the micronutrient deficiencies are public health problems in Vietnam. 14.2% of under 5 year old children in Vietnam had low serum vitamin A. This prevalence is varied for different ecological areas: from lowest in South-East area (7.9%) to highest in Central Highland (20.9%). Nutritional anemia also still a challenge for nutrition intervention program in Vietnam over time. The nationwide prevalence of anemia was 36.5%, 28.8% and 29.2% respectively for pregnant-women, women reproductive age and under 5 years old children (General nutrition survey 2009-2010). One of the main reason of micronutrient deficiency is poor nutrient source from every day food intake to response with minimum requirement.
Project “Sustainable Micronutrient Interventions to controL deficiencies and Improve Nutritional status and General health in South East Asia (SMILING)” using an innovative approach based on food availability and the current food consumption among priority target group. The workshop on Innovative approach to inform Nutrition Policy & Planning (WP4) is a key work package of SMILING. The WHO software OptiFood version 3.1 had been introduced by Dr. Elaine Ferguson from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to the participants from 5 Asean countries. The meeting was hosted by the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University (INMU) in Salaya campus, during September 17-21, 2012. After the training, all five countries will get a chance to use the software OptiFood with customizing the country conditions for the target groups as children under 5 year olds, women reproductive age and pregnant women.
The formulation and testing of dietary recommendations is based on their nutrient needs and food availability, constraints and the regulation on nutrition recommendation for each country. So far, the approaches for developing the dietary recommendations are dependent on true or false trials which is time-consuming, frustrating for the users and unlikely to lead to optimal recommendations that balance nutrient adequacy with food availability, acceptability and costs. In response to this challenge, scientists have developed an approach based on linear programming that can be used to rapidly formulate optimal, population-specific dietary recommendations, evaluate existing recommendations and identify the need for alternative nutrition intervention strategies.
To realize this approach, the World Health Organization (WHO) is working with the LSHTM, the Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance II Project (FANTA-2) and an information technology company, b-i, to develop OptiFood, a software program designed to facilitate the entry of data, the presentation of outputs, and the management of stored entries and output for food and nutrient intake modeling. OptiFood allows users to:
- Formulate food based recommendations.
- Identify locally available nutrient dense foods that are important for improving dietary quality.
Test food-based recommendations to determine whether they are likely to ensure a nutritionally adequate diet if they are successfully adopted.
Identify key nutrient problems i.e., those which the local food supply are unlikely to provide in adequate amounts.
Compare alternative food-based strategies on the basis of cost-effectiveness and likely reduction in the prevalence of nutrient inadequacies.
- Identify the lowest cost nutritionally adequate diet.
However, the linear programming approach requires highly specialized and technical skills, which significantly limits its use by those for whom the information would be of great value. The scientists and experts from LSHTM, other experts within this project will improve and make this software more user-friendly. We hope OptiFood will be applied widely as a useful tool to formulate food-based recommendation to overcome micronutrient deficiency in population./.
Dr. Tran Thanh Do - National Institute of Nutrition