Malnutrition’s Impact on Under-Resourced Communities

Malnutrition’s Impact on Underserved Communities

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Malnutrition is a health disparity that has a disproportionate impact on under-resourced communities.

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SEP. 28, 2021  3 MINUTES

Factors in your everyday life from where you live to where you work can have an impact on your overall health and well-being. It can determine your access to healthcare, education, economic opportunities, and social support.

People living in under-resourced, low-income communities experience a disproportionate impact on their health due to a lack of resources and services. This is particularly true when it comes to malnutrition, which occurs when people don't receive the right nutrients in the right amounts. Malnutrition occurs in both children and adults, in individuals who are underweight and overweight, and it can have a devastating impact on health.

How Social Determinants of Health Contribute to Malnutrition

Social determinants of health are the conditions in the environments where people live, learn, work, or play that affect health, functioning, and quality-of life. Malnutrition can be driven by social determinants of health, including poverty or economic instability, access to affordable healthcare and low health literacy.

Financial instability can lead to a lack of access to nutrient-dense foods or food insecurity, which has had a significant global impact. Under-resourced communities are often considered “food deserts” because of the lack of access to supermarkets which provide affordable and healthy foods. Many low-income countries may also heavily rely on staple foods – like rice or potatoes – limiting nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables due to cost.

Accessing affordable healthcare can be a challenge for many living in under-resourced communities. There are several factors that could prevent people from receiving healthcare, including financial instability, the location of health services or limited transportation options. This can impede people’s access to health screenings that can help identify and treat health issues or prevent the onset of chronic diseases. 

Living in under-resourced communities, many people may also not have information or resources on how healthy lifestyle interventions – like improving nutrition – can help them maintain or improve their health.  This can affect nutrition decisions and ultimately overall health. Empowering people with nutrition education is key for preventing and treating malnutrition.

Impact of Malnutrition on Under-Resourced Communities

Malnutrition has long-term effects on people’s health and economic stability. Undernutrition can increase the risk of illness and infections and cause longer recovery times. This can have significant economic impact due to the costs for obtaining medical care or lost wages due to missing work.

Globally, approximately 1.9 billion adults and 37 million children are overweight. Overweight or obesity – which are also forms of malnutrition – can significantly increase the risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Chronic diseases also have lifelong impacts on people’s health and economic impacts due to the cost for medical care and treatment.

Supporting Under-Resourced Communities

Governments, non-profits, private and public organizations, and community groups can support under-resourced communities experiencing malnutrition by addressing the social determinants of health and building more health equity through key partnerships.

Abbott’s Future WellTM Communities program aims to fight chronic diseases like diabetes by addressing the social and economic barriers to good health and partnering with local governments and organizations to remove these barriers. The program aims to:

  • Increase access to transportation services for medical appointments

  • Provide nutrition and health education programs

  • Create diabetes educational programs for healthcare workers

  • Expand access to healthy produce in food deserts

From a global perspective, Abbott and the Abbott Fund has partnered with Americares and Giao Diem Humanitarian Foundation (GDHF) since 2006 to support the GDHF’s Pediatric Nutrition Program. This program aims to improve the nutrition of preschool-age children in rural Vietnam by increasing access to nutritious, locally sourced foods at schools, training school staff to prepare nutritious meals and providing nutrition education to local families. Since the partnership began, the prevalence of malnutrition among participating children has decreased to less than 20%.

Tackling social determinants of health is key for addressing malnutrition in under-resourced communities. Removing social and economic barriers that can impact health and expanding access to nutrient-dense foods can help prevent and treat malnutrition in under-resourced communities. 

A Renewed Focus on Addressing Malnutrition in Older Adults

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An older man stands between rows of tomato plants holding a box of tomatoes.


It’s no secret that we all age, but with the birth rate on the decline and longevity increasing around the world, the global population is aging at a rapid rate. By 2050, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 65 years or older, and the number of people over 80 is projected to triple in the next 30 years.1

But while many adults around the world are living longer, they are not necessarily living healthier. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an often-hidden health condition experienced by many older adults has come back into focus more recently: malnutrition.

Reference Page Path

Ultra Rice Is Fighting Malnutrition In India

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Nutrition supports good health at every stage of life, but it's especially important for kids. Childhood is a crucial time for development of the brain and body, both of which rely on essential vitamins and minerals like iron, vitamin A and essential B vitamins.

A balanced diet is the best way to get all the nutrients you need, but that's not always possible for everyone. Leading international nonprofit, PATH, created Ultra Rice® as part of a solution to that problem.

Reference Page Path


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