A four-day Technical Consultation Meeting was recently held in South Africa to provide information to 10 sub-Saharan African countries to enhance governments’ institutional capacities in developing and implementing country-specific Food based Dietary Guidelines (FBDGs) and nutrition education for promoting healthy diets in Africa.
The meeting, which was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in collaboration with the Nutrition Society of South Africa, was held in Gauteng, Johannesburg.
The FBDGs are a source of information intended to establish a basis for public food and nutrition, health and agricultural policies to foster healthy eating habits and lifestyles. They provide advice on foods, food groups and dietary patterns for provision of the required nutrients to the public, with the goal of promoting overall health and prevention of chronic diseases.
According to a report of the meeting sent to the Daily Observer, one of the objectives of the meeting is to formulate a framework to support future national action plans of member countries that include developing and implementing FBDG, with key recommendations being made for country level implementation.
Among the recommendations is that countries should consider developing a template for public health nutrition policies to inform the food system solutions for better health; the need for countries in the African region to develop taxation and pricing policies to include taxes for unhealthy foods and subsidies for healthy foods and that FBDGs should also serve as food, agriculture and trade policies; countries should also ensure that both the guidelines and guides are tested with the target audience for practicality, cultural acceptability and ease of understanding at community levels; the need for countries in the African region to develop comprehensive implementation strategies that include approaches at interventions, which influence government policies and food industry, with the support of the media to help stop the epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases faced by the countries; countries should ensure that FBDGs reflect local, traditional, religious and cultural eating patterns and habits of all groups in the country and should meet certain criteria like being realistic, affordable and attainable and promote environmentally sustainable agriculture; and the need for countries to ensure that effective nutrition education and communication approaches are delivered through multiple venues and involve activities at the individual, community, institutional and national/international levels with a focus on behavior rather than knowledge only.
The Gambia was represented in the meeting by Modou Cheyassin Phall the Executive Director of the National Nutrition Agency, Modou Njai, the Director of Health Promotion and Education at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and Seedy Fofana the Deputy Director Food Technology Services Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture.
by Saffiatou Colley