THIS year’s Nutrition Month focuses on the growing problem of obesity in the Philippines. From 1993’s 16.6 percent, the prevalence of overweight Filipinos rose to 31.1 percent in 2013. The 8th National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), three out of 10 Filipino adults are obese.
With the theme Timbang iwasto sa tamang nutrisyon at ehersisyo (Correct weight through right nutrition and exercise), the 41st Nutrition Month campaign aims to make people aware about how they can prevent obesity.
July every year is National Nutrition Month by Presidential Decree No. 491 signed into law in 1974. In 2014, the campaign focused on disasters and their effect on nutrition among Filipinos.
According to Assistant Secretary of Health and NNC executive director Maria-Bernadita Flores, obesity has not only affected adults but also the children. The NNS also found out that overweight and obesity prevalence among children is 5 percent, while the Filipino teenagers, it is 8.3 percent.
Besides existing undernutrition problem, the country is also having problem with obesity—a double burden malnutrition. According to FNRI, obesity may be attributed to “high and fast living where lifestyle is sedentary, fast foods are abundant and planning and preparation of nutritious food for the family is not of prime importance.”
The council statement says: :”The campaign aims to encourage Filipinos to make positive decisions on the consumption of healthy diets and to be physically active to prevent non-communicable diseases as a result of being overweight and obese.”
Flores also noted that globally, there are more thatn 42 million children under five years who are overweight while more than 500 million are obese adults. She also reported that the Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome in 2014, calls for the eradication of hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition. The target of the Global Plan of Action on Noncommunicable Diseases aims to halt the rise of obesity by 2025.
In the country, she said, “The Philippine Plan of Action for 2011 to 2016 targets a no increase in 2008 levels but it seems that we are unlikely to achieve this target.”
Flores challenges representatives from various sectors to come together and act as one to prevent obesity. “Addressing obesity is a very big challenge. Overweight and obesity happens not just because of poor individuals choices but because of the complex interplay of a changing physical environment and socio-economic status; changing dietary patterns and the reduction in physical activity.”
She adds, “Addressing overweight and obesity is not just a health concern but a societal problem. We need support of everyone if we are to make drastic changes in the way we eat, the way we work and the way we move.”
Thus, she gives recommendations on how to prevent overweight and obesity by starting to address everybody to have the will to eat healthy and level up in their physical activity.
Families, especially parents and care providers, must be the role model for their children if childhood obesity is to be prevented. Families should be able to limit the screen time of children to no more than two hours a day so they will have time to play and move.
Mothers, with the help of the father, must decide to breastfeed her child because it protects the baby form becoming undernourished later in life.
Communities must be reshaped to enable people to safely engage in physical activitiy and exercise.
Food establishments, including carinderias, must be able to serve healthier food options particularly vegetable and fruits which is very much missing in most plates.
To implement these suggestions, Flores said the NNC, together with World Health Organization has recently organized a workshop to craft a plan of action to prevent childhood obesity in the country. As the coordinating body on nutrition, the NNC will take a more active role to bring together sectors that will promote a health-promoting environment to ward off the obesogenic environment. Such action includes having the national physical activity guidelines revived and promoted.
Flores concluded, “The call to action does not end with the end of Nutrition Month but only the beginning. We call everyone to do your responsibility to prevent overweight and obesity.