On Tuesday 28 January 2020, the atmosphere at the Indonesian Ministry of Health felt different than usual. It was a very special day, as it marked the 60th National Nutrition Day. There was a lively and dynamic ambience at the Ministry of Health as the place was filled with visitors and the fantastic live performance of the marching band from Jakarta’s Madrasah Ibtidaiyah Negeri 16 school filled the air with great energy. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Day was "Optimal Nutrition for the Millennial Generation". The Government had chosen this theme in order to demonstrate their ambition to start early prevention interventions for stunting in adolescents, which were at the centre of the celebration. There were several students invited from different middle- and high-schools in Jakarta.
Before the event started, I saw some young participants eagerly reading the "Healthy Teenage Nutrition Book", a piece I had the pleasure to help develop. We had the opportunity to launch the book as a joint effort between GAIN Indonesia and the Directorate of Community Nutrition – Ministry of Health. Later, when the event had started, the "Healthy Teenage Nutrition Book" was introduced through a short video that opened the floor to the General Director of Public Health, Dr Kirana Pritasari MQIH, together with GAIN's Country Director for Indonesia, Ravi K Menon, to officially launch it, in the presence of the Indonesian Minister of Health, Lt Gen (ret) Dr Terawan Agus Putranto, Sp Rad (K). It was also presented to some of the partners of the Ministry of Health, such as the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the Ministry of Religion, as well as representatives of different schools as target users.
This book is a first in its kind because, for once, the target audience is adolescents and the language is adapted to their contemporary style. Thirty-two adolescent girls and boys from middle- and high-schools around Jakarta and Bogor were actively involved in the development or testing phase. I am honoured to have been part of this process and to have delivered a communication material that is completely different from what was previously developed - materials with very technical language and jargon that could only be understood by professionals and not by the general public.
The 2015 Global School-based Health Survey (GSHS) revealed that most teenagers have poor diets. They seem to skip breakfast, prefer soft drinks and fast food, and usually do not bring lunch to school. Some studies have shown that 23.8% of young women suffer from anaemia (RISKESDAS 2013). A more recent study shows that 16% of adolescents are overweight and obese, while 8.7% of adolescents aged 13-15 are underweight and very thin (RISKESDAS 2018). All of this shows how adolescents are affected by food systems around them. Adolescents will, in a few years, become future parents. Therefore, it is essential to address the nutrition issues they are facing today, in order to guarantee a better and healthier life for them and their future children. This is where the "Healthy Teenage Nutrition Book" comes in as it is designed to be one of the sources of information that adolescents can rely on.
This book compares our bodies to a smart device. Smart devices have become of great importance in today's daily life, especially the lives of adolescents. Like smart gadgets, our bodies have multiple functions; but also like gadgets, our bodies need a great amount of energy to work properly. Smart devices rely on battery charges to refill their levels of energy, but our bodies get their energy from a balanced nutritional intake. If the intake is not rightly balanced, the body's levels of energy (or levels of battery, if we want to continue with the analogy) will not be complete, resulting in low battery. It follows the #AntiLowBattGeneration hashtag.
The launching of this book is the result of a successful and supportive collaboration between the GAIN Indonesia office and the Indonesian Ministry of Health through many programmes and activities carried out by GAIN Indonesia. Some of those activities around adolescent nutrition include:
In 2016, GAIN tested the effectiveness in behaviour change of social media campaigns when providing complex food and nutritional messaging through the Pretty and Picky Programme, targeted to adolescent girls.
In 2017, GAIN Indonesia presented Bp. Doddy Izwardy as the Director of Community Nutrition at the Ministry of Health during a side event at the World Health Assembly (WHA). During his speech, he expressed his commitment to improving adolescent’s nutritional status across Indonesia. He took the opportunity to ask GAIN Indonesia and other NGOs that hold adolescent nutrition programmes to lead discussions with national stakeholders. This led to the creation of a policy brief to improve adolescent nutrition that was disseminated at the end of 2019.
In 2018, GAIN Indonesia was involved in the organisation of the event "Adolescents: Agents of Change for a Well Nourished World" in Geneva. We sent three adolescents from Indonesia, and each voiced their concerns about adolescent’s behaviour around nutrition in front of policy-makers. They also stressed the need to involve adolescents in key policy-related decisions.
Moreover, the new programme "Saya PEMBERANI" (Nutri Young Leader Project) also focused on improving adolescent nutrition by encouraging adolescents to improve their eating patterns. This project identified motivated adolescents between 12 to 20 years old that were willing to drive a social change regarding nutrition. We collected 346 ideas from these enthusiastic adolescents. These ideas went through a mentoring process to improve their projects. Only the top ten ideas were selected at the Summit last February. Those top 10 are currently continuing their mentoring online.
All of the programmes and efforts listed above strengthen the idea that adolescents should be actively involved in the development of programmes and materials targeted at them since they are the building block of the future generation. Rafsi, one of the adolescents that attended the conference in Geneva, stated at the event "We asked for nothing much but our voices to be heard in real ways as we have never been heard before. We want that in every single meeting that you hold, we are present. We don't request that you invite a full hall of us, we just want you to take at least some of us in the same room you are in. This might not seem logical to you and it is very for us to say this, but if we want to fix this problem, we must fix this together." (Rafsi) As Rafsi stated, adolescents are at the centre of those programmes and should have a seat at the table, guiding us to improve our programmes and achieve greater impact.