ajcn083766 1636..1643

The double burden of undernutrition and excess body weight in
Ecuador1–4


Wilma B Freire, Katherine M Silva-Jaramillo, Marıa J Ramırez-Luzuriaga, Philippe Belmont, and William F Waters


ABSTRACT
Background: Ecuador’s current nutrition policies have not taken
adequate notice of the double burden of malnutrition and continue
to focus on stunting and to a lesser extent on overweight, without
addressing the simultaneous presence of undernutrition, micronu-
trient deficiencies, and overweight or obesity (OW/OB).
Objective: The aim of this article was to describe the prevalence
and distribution of undernutrition (stunting, anemia, and zinc de-
ficiency), overweight, and obesity in Ecuador to explore the evolv-
ing double burden of malnutrition at the national, household, and
individual levels and to discuss whether current public health pol-
icies are addressing the double burden.
Design: Data from the 2012 Ecuadorian National Health and Nu-
trition Survey (ENSANUT-ECU) was used to estimate the dual
burden of malnutrition at the national, household, and individual
levels in children ,5 y old, school-aged children, and women of
reproductive age.
Results: In 13.1% of households, mothers with excess body weight
coexist with a stunted child ,5 y old. Moreover, among households
with overweight or obese mothers, 12.6% have an anemic child and
14% have a zinc-deficient child. At the individual levels, the co-
existence of OW/OB and stunting, anemia, or zinc deficiency was
found in 2.8%, 0.7%, and 8.4% of school-aged children, respec-
tively. In addition, 8.9% and 32.6% of women aged 12–49 y have
excess body weight and anemia or zinc deficiency, respectively.
Conclusions: This article shows the coexistence of high rates of
undernutrition and OW/OB at the individual, household, and national
levels in Ecuador. Although integrated approaches to address the
emerging double burden are required, public health policies to date
have not responded adequately. Am J Clin Nutr 2014;100
(suppl):1636S–43S.


Keywords Ecuador, double burden, overweight, undernutrition,
obesity, malnutrition, epidemiological transition


INTRODUCTION


Most underdeveloped countries have substantial experience in
addressing undernutrition, which persists as an important public
health issue. In addition, dramatic increases in rates of over-
weight and obesity have been noted in many countries (1).
Because this is a relatively new phenomenon, the issue has not yet
been adequately addressed or even fully recognized. The
evolving double burden of undernutrition and overweight or
obesity (OW/OB)5 is expressed within the context of a complex
web of social determinants (2, 3). It has been observed in many


Latin American countries that, within the same household,
stunting among children persists along with OW/OB in mothers,
whereas household members also suffer from micronutrient de-
ficiencies (4–6). The double burden is related to the epidemio-
logic transition, globalization, urbanization, shifts in occupational
structures, and changing patterns of diet and physical activity (2,
7, 8). Although diets in developing countries still include large
proportions of unprocessed foods, traditional diets have been re-
placed in whole or in part by energy-dense foods, particularly
processed foods high in fat, sugar, and salt (9). In addition, tra-
ditional lifestyles have changed dramatically, particularly in terms
of substantial reductions in physical activity (10).


Most underdeveloped countries either have not taken adequate
notice of this looming problem or if they have, they lack the
resources to address it adequately. Consequently, they continue to
concentrate on undernutrition without addressing OW/OB. The
current situation in Ecuador is not dramatically different from the
trends and transitions that are currently unfolding on the world
stage. Ecuador’s population of w15 million is .70% urban
(11), although the rural and agricultural sectors remain impor-
tant. Ecuador is geographically diverse and is home to important
ethnic and racial minorities, including Afro-Ecuadorians, Mon-
tubios (mixed-race rural residents of the coastal region), and


1 From the Ministerio de Salud Pública del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador


(WBF, KMS-J, MJR-L, and PB), and the Health and Nutrition Research


Institute, University of San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador (WFW).
2 Presented at the IUNS 20th International Congress of Nutrition held in


Granada, Spain, 15 September 2013.
3 This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the


public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
4 Address correspondence to WB Freire, Ministry of Public Health of


Ecuador, Moscú 380 y República del Salvador, Quito, Ecuador. E-mail:


freirewi@gmail.com.
5Abbreviations used: ENSANUT-ECU, Ecuadorean National Health and


Nutrition Survey; Hh An-OW/OBm, household level, child ,5 y with ane-
mia and overweight or obese mother; Hh St-OW/OBm, household level,


stunted child ,5 y and overweight or obese mother; Hh Zn-OW/OBm,
household level, child ,5 y with zinc deficiency and overweight or obese
mother; Ii An-OW/OB, intraindividual level, school-aged children with ane-


mia and overweight or obese; Ii An-OW/OBw, intraindividual level, anemic


women of reproductive age with overweight or obese; Ii St-OW/OB, intra-


individual level, school-aged children with stunting and overweight or obese;


Ii Zn-OW/OB, intraindividual level, school-aged children with zinc defi-


ciency and overweight or obese; Ii Zn-OW/OBw, intraindividual level,


zinc-deficient women of reproductive age with overweight or obese; OW/


OB, overweight or obesity.


First published online October 29, 2014; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.083766.


1636S Am J Clin Nutr 2014;100(suppl):1636S–43S. Printed in USA. 2014 American Society for Nutrition


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members of 14 indigenous groups. Although average incomes
have increased in the past 2 decades, the country remains highly
unequal, with a Gini coefficient that is still w0.50 (12). Rapid
social and economic development in the face of persistent
poverty and inequality are factors that provide the context for
the double burden of malnutrition.


The aim of this article is to describe the magnitude and dis-
tribution of the prevalence of both undernutrition (stunting,
anemia, and zinc deficiency) and overweight and obesity in
Ecuador to explore the double burden of malnutrition at the
individual, household, and national levels and to discuss whether
current public policies are addressing the double burden.


SUBJECTS AND METHODS


The data presented here come from the 2012 Ecuadorian
National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT-ECU), which
was based on a representative sample of Ecuadorians aged from
0 to 59 y (13). The probabilistic multistage sampling strategy is
representative at the national and subregional levels: urban and
rural Sierra (highlands), urban and rural coast, urban and rural
Amazon (the tropical and semitropical region east of the high-
lands), Galápagos, and the cities of Quito and Guayaquil. The
sample included 57,727 individuals and 19,803 households. A
questionnaire collected information on sociodemographic char-
acteristics and anthropometric measurements for all participants
in different age groups: children ,5 y (n = 8894), school-aged
children 5–11 y (n = 11,534), adolescents aged 12–19 y (n =
8529), and adults aged 20–59 y (n = 28,740). From a subsample
of subjects, venous blood and urine specimens were collected
for micronutrient status determinations, including hemoglobin
and zinc, in children aged 6–59 mo (n = 2047), 5–11 y (n =
4443), and 12–19 y (4039) and adults aged 20–59 y (n =
10,950).


Data collection and handling


Trained fieldworkers applied structured questionnaires to
participants in the selected households with the use of stan-
dardized procedures, protocols, and equipment (14). Height was
measured in subjects .2 y old by using portable stadiometers,
whereas infantometers were used to measure length in children
,2 y to the nearest 0.1 cm. Portable electronic scales were used
to measure weight in children and adults to the nearest 0.1 kg.
To ensure reliability, anthropometric data were collected for
each variable twice, with an interval of 5 to 10 minutes. When
there was a difference of 60.5 kg in weight or 60.5 cm in
height, a third measure was made, and the mean value was
calculated from the 2 closest values. In addition, supervisors
remeasured participants in every tenth household, and in-
terviewers were retrained after every 11 d of field work. Age was
verified by observing each subject’s national identity card. Ve-
nous blood and urine specimens for micronutrient status de-
terminations were collected by using standardized procedures.
Hemoglobin was measured by using sodium lauryl–hemoglobin
method/spectrophotometry. Zinc was measured by using Flame
atomic absorption spectrophotometry.


To assess nutritional status in preschool-aged children, school-
aged children, and adolescents, z scores were calculated by using
WHO 2006 and 2007 standards (15, 16). Preschool-aged chil-


dren were classified as stunted if their length- or height-for-age z
scores were , 22 SDs. Risk of overweight and overweight
including obesity were defined as .1 SD and #2 SDs and .2
SDs of BMI-for-age z score, respectively. Stunting in school-
aged children was defined as length- or height-for-age z scores ,
22 SDs. For school-aged children and adolescents, overweight
and obesity were determined by z scores between .1 SD and
#2 SDs and .2 SDs in BMI-for-age, respectively. For in-
dividuals .19 y, BMI (in kg/m2) was established according to
WHO standards by using cutoffs of $25 and ,30 for over-
weight and $30 for obesity (17). Weight and height outliers for
individuals ,19 y were defined by using the WHO SD bound-
aries, and for adults outliers were set at 5 SDs above or below
the reference mean.


Anemia was defined by using WHO cutoffs (18). Hemoglobin
values were adjusted for altitude by using the method proposed
by Nestel (19) and adjusted by the CDC’s Pediatric Nutrition
Surveillance System. This method proposes an individual cor-
rection that uses a curvilinear equation of observed hemoglobin
concentrations according to the altitude at which each subjects
live (which in the case of the highlands is frequently .2500 m
above sea level). The hemoglobin correction equation is as
follows: adjusted hemoglobin = 20.32 (altitude in meters above
sea level 3 0.0033) + 0.22 (altitude in meters above sea level 3
0.033)2. Zinc deficiency was defined by using the International
Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group and the WHO/UNICEF/In-
ternational Atomic Energy Agency/International Zinc Nutrition
Consultative Group cutoffs for .10 and ,10 y, respectively
(20, 21).


Double burden at the household level was defined as the
coexistence of a stunted child ,5 y and an overweight or obese
mother, referred to hereafter as an Hh St-OW/OBm pair. The
double burden at the household level was also defined as the
coexistence of a child ,5 y with anemia or zinc deficiency and
an overweight or obese mother, referred to hereafter as an Hh
An-OW/OBm pair and an Hh Zn-OW/OBm pair, respectively.
Pregnant women and women with no children or with missing
data for their ,5-y-old child were excluded from the analysis.
At the individual level, the prevalence of double burden in
school-aged children (5–11 y) was defined as the coexistence in
the same individual of OW/OB, stunting, anemia, or zinc de-
ficiency, referred to hereafter as Ii St-OW/OB, Ii An-OW/OB,
and Ii Zn-OW/OB, respectively. The double burden at the in-
dividual level was also defined for women of reproductive age
(12–49 y) as the coexistence of OW/OB and anemia (referred to
hereafter as Ii An-OW/OBw) and as the coexistence of OW/OB
and zinc deficiency (referred to hereafter as Ii Zn-OW/OBw).
School-aged children and women of reproductive age with
missing data on weight, height, hemoglobin, or zinc were ex-
cluded from the analysis.


Before the initiation of field work, the study was approved by
the Institutional Review Board of the San Francisco de Quito
University. All participants signed informed consent forms, and
all data were handled anonymously during data entry and
analysis.


Statistical analysis


The normality of the distribution of variables was checked by
Q-Q plot and histogram observation. The expected prevalence of


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Hh St-OW/OBm, Hh An-OW/OBm, and Hh Zn-OW/OBm pairs
was calculated by multiplying the prevalence of OW/OB in
mothers by the prevalence of stunting, anemia, and zinc de-
ficiency in children ,5 y old divided by 100. The expected
prevalence of Ii St-OW/OB, Ii An-OW/OB, Ii Zn-OW/OB, Ii
An-OW/OBw, and Ii Zn-OW/OBw was calculated by multi-
plying the prevalence of OW/OB with the prevalence of stunt-
ing, anemia, or zinc deficiency divided by 100 in each case,
assuming independence of the occurrence of the 2 conditions
that encompass the double burden (22). The differences between
the expected and the observed prevalence were compared by
using a chi-square test. All statistical procedures were per-
formed with Stata 12 (StataCorp) by using the SVY module for
complex surveys (23).


RESULTS


Sociodemographic characteristics are described in Table 1.
These data are comparable to the results of the 2010 national
population census (11). Note that only 18.5% of mothers have
more than a secondary school education. With regard to an-
thropometric measurements, 1 of 10 mothers is ,145 cm tall,
whereas nearly 6 in 10 are either overweight or obese. The
national prevalence of stunting and OW/OB in children ,5 y, as
well as of anemia and zinc deficiency in preschool-aged chil-
dren, school-aged children, adolescents, and women of re-
productive age, is shown in Figure 1. As shown in Figure 1A,
the traditional problem of stunting persists, affecting 1 in 4
preschool-aged children (25.3%) and nearly 1 in 3 children
between 12 and 23 mo of age (32.6%). Although the prevalence


TABLE 1


Characteristics of children ,5 y old and their mothers, school-aged children, and women of reproductive age in the
ENSANUT-ECU, 20121


Characteristics


Children ,5 y old
(0–59 mo)


School-aged children


(5–11 y)


Women of reproductive age


(12–49 y)


n 8894 11,534 18,909


Sex, % male 51.0 (49.5, 52.5)2 51.1 (49.7, 52.5) —


Age, y 2.0 6 1.43 8.0 6 2.0 28.5 6 10.8
Area, %


Urban 65.0 (62.5, 67.3) 63.7 (61.3, 66.0) 69.0 (66.9, 71.1)


Rural4 35.0 (32.7, 37.5) 36.3 (34.0, 38.7) 31.0 (28.9, 33.1)


Economic status index,5 %


Q1 27.0 (24.9, 29.1) 23.4 (21.7, 25.3) 20.4 (18.9, 22.1)


Q2 22.5 (21.0, 24.1) 23.4 (21.9, 25.1) 21.1 (19.9, 22.5)


Q3 20.1 (18.6, 21.7) 19.5 (18.1, 20.9) 20.0 (18.8, 21.2)


Q4 16.9 (15.4, 18.5) 18.6 (17.0, 20.3) 19.6 (18.2, 21.1)


Q5 13.6 (11.9, 15.4) 15.1 (13.5, 16.8) 18.9 (17.2, 20.6)


Ethnicity, %


Indigenous 8.4 (7.1, 9.8) 7.6 (6.5, 8.9) 6.3 (5.5, 7.3)


Afro-Ecuadorian 4.5 (3.7, 5.4) 4.4 (3.6, 5.4) 4.6 (4.0, 5.4)


Montubio 5.1 (4.1, 6.4) 5.5 (4.5, 6.6) 5.5 (4.7, 6.5)


Mestizo, white, and others 82.0 (80.2, 83.7) 82.5 (80.8, 84.0) 83.5 (82.2, 84.8)


Region, %


Highlands 46.4 (42.8, 50.0) 45.9 (42.4, 49.4) 45.6 (42.1, 49.0)


Coast 46.3 (42.6, 50.1) 47.6 (44.1, 51.2) 49.5 (46.0, 53.1)


Amazon 7.3 (6.4, 8.3) 6.5 (5.7, 7.4) 4.9 (4.3, 5.5)


Maternal characteristics (n = 7470)


Height, %


,145 cm — — 9.8 (8.8, 11.0)
145–149 cm — — 23.8 (22.3, 25.4)


$150 cm — — 66.4 (64.5, 68.2)


Age, y — — 28.5 6 6.8
Level of education, %


No schooling/incomplete primary school — — 2.0 (1.6, 2.6)


Primary school/incomplete secondary school — — 54.0 (51.9, 55.9)


Secondary school — — 25.4 (23.8, 27.1)


Greater than secondary school — — 18.5 (17.1, 20.3)


BMI,6 %


Underweight (,18.5 kg/m2) — — 1.4 (1.1, 1.8)
Normal (18.5–24.9 kg/m2) — — 40.4 (38.7, 42.0)


Overweight (25.0–29.9 kg/m2) — — 37.8 (36.1, 39.6)


Obese ($30.0) — — 20.4 (19.0, 22.0)


1ENSANUT-ECU, Ecuadorian National Health and Nutrition Survey; Q, quintile.
2Prevalence (%); 95% CI in parentheses (all such values).
3Mean 6 SD (all such values).
4Rural subjects lived in a locality with ,2500 residents; urban subjects lived in a locality with $2500 residents.
5Q1 = poorest and Q5 = wealthiest.
6BMI-for-age z scores were used for mothers ,19 y old.


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of OW/OB is lower, affecting 8.6% of children ,5 y, the risk
of OW/OB is considerably higher and affects 21.6% of children
,5 y. With regard to ethnicity, Figure 1B shows that historically
high levels of stunting persist in the indigenous population
(42.3%). Moreover, the risk of OW/OB in indigenous children
,5 y old is double that of children in the other ethnic groups. As
shown in Figure 1C anemia and zinc deficiency affect 25.7%
and 27.5% of preschool-aged children, respectively. The prev-
alence of both deficiencies is very high, especially in infants
between 6 and 11 mo of age. Anemia is more prevalent than zinc
deficiency in the first year of life, but by the second year zinc
deficiency is more prevalent. As shown in Figure 1D, 1 in 4
school-aged children continue to be affected by zinc deficiency
and more than half of adolescents from 12 to 19 y of age are
affected by this problem. Moreover, nearly 6 in 10 women of
reproductive age suffer from zinc deficiency and 1 in 10 from
anemia. As shown in Figure 2, the prevalence of OW/OB
among school-aged children is higher in boys (32.5%) than in
girls (27.1%), but in both sexes it affects .1 in 4 children.
Among adolescents, in contrast, overweight is more prevalent in
girls (21.9%) than in boys (16.2%), whereas the rates of obesity
are similar, affectingw7% of subjects in this age range. By the
time adulthood is reached, however, overweight is more preva-
lent in men (44.3%) than in women (38.3%) who nevertheless
suffer from obesity in higher proportions.


Data that show the double burden of undernutrition and excess
body weight at the household and individual levels are presented
in Table 2. At the household level, 57.6% of mothers were either


overweight or obese, and 24.8% of children ,5 y were stunted.
In 13.1% of households, mothers with OW/OB coexist with
a stunted child ,5 y old. This proportion was lower than ex-
pected (P , 0.05) assuming independence of the occurrence of
each condition. Moreover, the coexistence of an overweight or
obese mother with an anemic or zinc-deficient child ,5 y old
was observed in 12.6% and 14.0% of households, respectively.
Both values were lower than expected, although not significant
assuming burdens were independent (P . 0.05). At the in-
dividual level, the double burden of OW/OB and stunting,
anemia, or zinc deficiency was found in 2.8%, 0.7%, and 8.4%


FIGURE 2 Prevalence of overweight and obesity in school-aged chil-
dren, adolescents, adults, and women of reproductive age.


FIGURE 1 Prevalence of stunting, risk of OW/OB, and OW/OB in children ,5 y old by age (A) and ethnicity (B). Prevalence of anemia and zinc
deficiency in children ,5 y old by age (C). Prevalence of zinc deficiency and anemia in school-aged children, adolescents, and women of reproductive age
(D). 1Cutoffs for anemia: school-aged children (Hb ,11.5 g/dL) and adolescents and nonpregnant women of reproductive age (Hb ,12 g/dL). 2Cutoffs for
zinc deficiency: males (Zn ,74 mg/dL) and females (Zn ,70 mg/dL). BAZ, BMI-for-age z score; HAZ, length- or height-for-age z score; Hb, hemoglobin;
OW/OB, overweight or obesity.


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1640S FREIRE ET AL


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of school-aged children, respectively. The observed prevalences
of Ii An-OW/OB and Ii Zn-OW/OB corresponded to the ex-
pected value because they were not significant. At the individual
level, the coexistence of OW/OB and anemia was found in 8.9%
of women of reproductive age. Moreover, 32.6% of overweight
or obese women aged 12–49 y also suffer from zinc deficiency.
In both cases, the prevalence corresponded to expected values
because they were not significant. In synthesis, the data show
that micronutrient deficiencies are present in women of re-
productive age, independent of their BMI. Moreover, the data
confirm findings presented earlier that show that anemia is less
prevalent than zinc deficiency but that both persist as important
nutritional problems.


DISCUSSION


Although stunting and micronutrient deficiencies have been
observed in Ecuador for at least 2 decades (24), the emerging
phenomenon of OW/OB is still not widely recognized, even
though other recent studies also found high rates of overweight
and obesity in women of reproductive age as well as in older
adults (25, 26). In this highly dynamic scenario, rates of un-
dernutrition in the form of stunting, anemia, and zinc deficiency
persist, particularly in vulnerable segments of the population. At
the same time, rates of overweight and obesity have increased
dramatically in all points of the life cycle (13).


A study conducted by the World Bank (27) that estimated the
prevalence of undernutrition in children ,5 y old in Ecuador is
the only previous work that shows simultaneous high levels of
undernutrition and OW/OB in mothers, thereby suggesting the
presence of the double burden. Nevertheless, as far as we are
aware, the data presented in this article are the first collected
from a national, representative sample that conclusively show
the coexistence of high rates of undernutrition and OW/OB in
Ecuador at the individual, household, and national levels. Spe-
cifically, in .13.1% of the households, a stunted child ,5 y old
coexists with an overweight or obese mother. The dual burden
was also observed at the individual level; 8.4% of school-aged
children are both zinc-deficient and either overweight or obese
whereas 32.6% of women of reproductive age are also zinc-
deficient and suffer from OW/OB.


Most of the prevalence values observed with regard to the
double burden at the individual and household levels fall within
the range of expected values, although the prevalance of Hh St-
OW/OBm and Ii St-OW/OBs was lower than expected and was
significant. Therefore, the analysis of the double burden in dif-
ferent population segments shows that the presence of each
condition (stunting, OW/OB, anemia, and zinc deficiency) in the
same household or at the individual level is the product of the
magnitude of the individual prevalence rates in the population.
Nevertheless, the independence of each condition does not
change the fact that both conditions coexist and therefore the
underlying determinants of undernutrition and OW/OB should be
simultaneously addressed by appropriate public health policies.


The coexistence of nutritional problems of deficit and excess in
the same individuals and households can be explained by several
factors, which are hardly unique to Ecuador. In this sense, the
present case is particularly relevant because, although Ecuador is
a middle-income country, the United Nations places it in the high-
development category in the 89th place of 186 countries (12).


First, the increase in the rate of overweight and obesity in the
Ecuadorian population is greater than the decrease in un-
dernutrition. Second, the double burden is related to changing
patterns of diet and physical activity. The ENSANUT-ECU study
suggests that emerging food consumption patterns in Ecuador
might be substantially contributing to the double burden. On one
hand, 30% of the population has an excessive intake of carbo-
hydrates based in large part on the consumption of rice, which is
the most important staple in that it also contributes significantly to
the daily intake of protein, iron, and zinc, even though it provides
low nutrient bioavailability (13). In contrast, Ecuadorians con-
sume, on average, very small quantities of fresh fruit and veg-
etables; although the recommendation is 400 g/d, mean
consumption is only 183 g. Hence, the prevailing pattern of food
consumption incorporates an inadequate consumption of
micronutrients but at the same time might promote overweight
and obesity. In addition, levels of physical activity are low in all
age groups. Among school-aged children and adolescents, 21%
and 26%, respectively, spend an average of $2 h/d watching
television or playing electronic games, whereas 45% of adults
have a low level of physical activity or are inactive (13). Third,
recent studies have shown that overweight and obese individuals
have a greater probability of suffering from iron and zinc de-
ficiency than do those who are not overweight or obese (28–30).
Fourth, these patterns have evolved within the context of
structural changes observed in Ecuador and throughout the
world to one degree or another. Specifically, nutritional status
has been irrevocably altered by the globalization of agricultural
production and food consumption fueled in part by transnational
markets, the diffusion of technological innovations (particularly
the near-universalization of television and digital communica-
tions), accelerated rates of urbanization, dramatic shifts in oc-
cupational structure, improved educational status, and changing
sex roles (31, 32).


Although the double burden of undernutrition and OW/OB
should be part of public discourse and should also frame health
policy in Ecuador, decision makers have yet to recognize the
implications of the high prevalence of overweight and obesity or
to fully understand that the presence of this problem in children
and adolescents presages an unhealthy future. In short, there is
little appreciation or sufficient understanding of the double
burden of undernutrition and OW/OB in different segments of the
population.


The Ecuadorian government has allocated unprecedented
proportions of the budget to investments in health and nutrition.
Among the priorities is a reduction in the persistently high rates
of undernutrition in children ,5 y, for whom substantial re-
sources have been dedicated, according to an action plan that
was based on scientific evidence (33). Nevertheless, the preva-
lence of stunting remains at very high levels and is much higher
than levels found in other countries in the region, including
Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia (34–36).


The government has implemented a set of interrelated actions,
including a package of health services for mothers and children
called “Desnutrición Cero” (Zero Undernutrition), a school
lunch program called “Programa de Alimentación Escolar”
(School Lunch Program), and the promotion of physical activity.
In addition, the government is presently considering various
alternatives for regulating the advertising and sale of processed
foods. Nevertheless, at the implementation level, these actions


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are poorly articulated and fail to address the looming double
burden of malnutrition. Moreover, these programs have not been
evaluated to determine whether or not they have had any impact.


To be able to define an integrated strategy that simultaneously
addresses the double burden, it is essential that there be broad
consensus on the causes and determinants of this evolving public
health problem. In that context, it is expected the ENSANUT-
ECU study will contribute to a shared understanding of the
evolving epidemiologic and nutritional profile of the diverse
Ecuadorian population and to the development of an integrated
strategy that considers both undernutrition and overweight and
obesity.


The principal lesson to be learned from the Ecuadorian ex-
perience is that although program implementation in some places
may suffer from inadequate resources, this is not always the case.
Rather, the ability to successfully address this complex and
emerging problem may be limited by other factors, including
gaps between knowing what should be done and being able to
implement effective solutions, in part because of political re-
alities and because qualified professionals are often not in
a position to take the lead in implementing innovative solutions.
Even at the local level, public health teams, which generally
include physicians, nurses, and nutritionists, are often unable to
include nutrition components within a package of primary health
services. Given these limitations, it is essential that a broad range
of actors be incorporated into interdisciplinary and integrated
efforts at all levels of decision making and implementation to
address the double burden discussed in this article.


The authors’ responsibilities were as follows—WBF: designed and super-


vised the research, prepared the first draft of the manuscript, and had major


responsibility for the final content; KMS-J, MJR-L, and WFW: analyzed


data and wrote the final manuscript; and PB: provided statistical expertise.


All of the authors contributed to the interpretation of the data, read the


manuscript, participated in the preparation and editing of the manuscript,


and read and approved the final version. None of the authors had any per-


sonal or financial conflict of interest related to this article.


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