The main objective of this panel was to raise awareness on the issue of malnutrition, with a specific focus on child obesity and malnutrition. Supporting healthy diets is therefore crucial for every community, and governments play a huge role in trying to promote more active lifestyles.
The panel started with the assessment made by the Executive Secretary of Ministry of Health of Brazil, who stressed that Brazil has recently gone through an epidemiological transition, which has increased the prevalence of non-communicable diseases and the proneness to consume ultra-processed food. Recent studies show how computers and smartphones are currently big obstacles in this regard. It is indeed true that individuals, especially young children, have been developing a dependency on such devices, thus reducing the amount of physical activity. Moreover, fast-food eating has resulted in a huge increase over the last few decades. Brazil acknowledges the need to act in schools and in families. It is in these environments that the government must act and promote awareness. However, an inter-sectorial approach is also strongly required in order to tackle malnutrition. Strategies to control child obesity have been drafted already and they provide especially for clear food labeling and regulation – healthy schools canteens and sugary drinks taxes in the first place. Indeed, childhood obesity prevention can be addressed through care programs in primary healthcare, so that children can adopt an active lifestyle at an early age. Then, ultra-processed food in schools must be severely restricted in order not to expose children to unhealthy habits.
For what concerns political actions, governments must be committed to provide foods guidelines aimed at reducing the amount of sugar and fat in processed food.
The floor was then given to the Permanent Representative of Ecuador to FAO, who also stressed the need to adopt strategies in order to reduce the consumption of products with high concentration of fat, sugar and salt. Indeed, working on consumers’ behaviors is vital in order to tackle malnutrition. As a matter of fact, households must be exposed to healthier products, raising awareness of the nutritional responsibility of the private sector. Healthy food is a basic human right, which must be guaranteed. Data show that 10% of children can reduce obesity by reducing the intake of unhealthy food and by turning into high-nutritional profile food. The stress must be on effective strategies and actions with the purpose to improve the food system, eventually leading to better healthy lifestyles.
The panelists strongly emphasized the need to work on consumers, so that they will have the access to clear information for what concerns food labeling, in order to make better decisions. Indeed, consumers must easily understand the information provided and more healthy products must be used. Food components must be changed to have low-risk ingredients and to reduce the consumption of sugar and fat. The ultimate goal is to discourage unhealthy eating habits.
In conclusion, real leadership is required within governments in order to take responsibility to draft sustainable long-term plans. Joint actions and coordinated policies can help restricting the markets of unhealthy food. Children must not be exposed to such unhealthy lifestyles, which are clearly not beneficial and influence them so much that actions must be taken immediately. Monitoring systems have to be used to tackle the issue of malnutrition, consumers must be able to make clear decisions and only in this way we can reduce the levels of obesity and overweight that we face nowadays.