Social media push on nutrition urged

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
This photo of a mother holding her baby has earned a journalist an award for news reports promoting good nutritional pratices. PHOTO SUPPLIED

At a November 22 workshop, experts urged media outlets to promote awareness of healthy nutrition in Cambodia.

Their calls came in light of a significant increase in Cambodian engagement with social media in recent years.

Un Sam Oeurn, a health and nutrition specialist for the Multisectoral Food and Nutrition Security Project (MUSEFO) at Germany’s international development agency GIZ, said a 2021 study showed that more than 70 per cent of Cambodians are active users of social media including YouTube, Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. This is a clear indication of their value as information networks.

“The research shows that the influence of the media – and social media – is invaluable in raising awareness, increasing knowledge and changing maternal and infant nutritional behaviours, along with infant and young child feeding practices,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. False information can also be widely disseminated,” he cautioned.

He said that although most Cambodians are active users of social media, reporting or sharing information on health issues remained limited.

Sam Oeurn added that due to the influence of the media and social media, it is important for state institutions and their partners to promote their use to improve nutritional practices, especially for women and young children.

He said addressing nutritional challenges is essential if the Kingdom is to meet its sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030.

He encouraged journalists to continue to share information on nutrition, baby and child care.

Hou Kroeun, deputy country director of the NGO Helen Keller International (Cambodia), said a training session to teach journalists about nutrition and infant and child feeding was recently run to increase their knowledge, and to build a relationship between the media and the specialists working in the field.

Prak Sophorn Neary, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said that high rates of stunting and obesity are hindering the Kingdom’s sustainable economic development. In order to resolve these issues, the participation of the media is essential.

She asked that relevant institutions help to spread information regarding nutrition, suggesting they share short messages that attract attention and are easy to remember.

She added that she would consider this humanitarian work, as it would help Cambodian children.

According to the Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey 2021-2022, stunting (malnutrition) among children under 5 had decreased from 32 per cent in 2014 to 22 per cent currently, progress which exceeded the expected results. Nonetheless, 10 per cent of children under the age of 5 were still suffering acute malnutrition – a rate that has not changed over the past decade.