Stressing that unhealthy diet is responsible for millions of deaths and lost years of good health, the World Health Organisation has called for promoting healthy food in public facilities.
The WHO maintains that urgent action is needed for stopping the growing consumption of foods and beverages that lead to unhealthy diets. The health organisation made the observation in its latest “Action Framework for developing and implementing public food procurement and service policies for a healthy diet”.
It raised serious concern over excess consumption of sodium and salt, sugars and fats, especially trans-fatty acids (trans-fats) and low consumption of whole pulses, grains, fruits and vegetables.
The frame work calls for increasing the availability of healthy food through setting nutrition criteria for food served and sold in public settings.
It also aims for bringing down preventable diseases and deaths from excess consumption of sodium and salt, sugars and fats, especially trans-fatty acids (trans-fats). The WHO said that the all the governments had a unique opportunity and responsibility to implement healthy public food procurement and service policies. It should thrive to ensure that all foods and beverages served/sold in public facilities promote healthy diets.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that public funds should never be spent on food that contributes to unhealthy diets.
The governments by providing and promoting healthier foods and beverages can enable the population to consume healthy diets. “This will reduce the burden of all forms of malnutrition, and premature death and disability from preventable diet-related noncommunicable diseases,” the WHO said in the frame work.
The world organisation noted that productivity will increase with healthy public food procurement and service policies. It also creates purchasing power, which increases the demand for and availability of healthier food and reduces costs. The new mechanism would also help in strengthening local food systems by promoting purchasing from local producers.
Healthy public food procurement and service policies can apply to food served and sold through government institutional settings like schools, childcare facilities, government workplaces, public hospitals and correctional facilities. It can also apply to food venues and programmes such as cafeterias, tuckshops, vending machines, conferences, meetings, sports events and social support feeding programmes.
The WHO says that several countries have already taken several initiatives in providing healthy diet to the public.
It notes that the National School Feeding Programme in Brazil requires that 30 per cent of the budget to be used to purchase food from family farms. It also emphasis menus based on fresh or minimally processed foods based on the region’s sustainability, seasonality and agricultural diversification. The Republic of Korea has established Green Food Zones for improving the health of children. In 200 metre radius of schools, businesses may not sell food that that falls above a set threshold for calories per serving, total sugars and saturated fats.
Four key policy steps
- Policy preparation; outlines key steps to take when preparing to develop or revise a healthy public food procurement and service policy.
- Policy development; describes key steps of the policy development process, particularly the process of defining the purpose, scope, and nutrition and other criteria to be included in the policy.
- Policy implementation reviews; key steps to support and ensure full policy implementation, highlighting that a clearly defined implementation strategy is critical to success of the policy.
- Monitoring, enforcement and evaluation guides; the process of monitoring and enforcing the policy, as well as conducting a policy evaluation to determine whether the policy is being effectively implemented.
CORE PRINCIPLES OF HEALTHY DIETS:
- Limit intake of free sugars.
- Shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats
- Eliminate industrially produced trans fats.
- Limit sodium consumption and ensure that salt is iodized.
- Increase consumption of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and pulses.
- Ensure availability of free, safe drinking water.