Pakistan needs a healthy diet policy: experts

Flat lay photography of vegetable salad on the plate.— Pexels/File

ISLAMABAD: Calling for the preparation and implementation of a ‘national diet policy’ from the perspective of health instead of food security, public health experts have emphasized that the dream of achieving a healthy society is without a healthy diet and provide people with clean drinking water. which cannot be achieved.

They claimed that more than 70 percent of health issues relate to nutrition and safe drinking water. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people, especially women and children, are not getting the necessary nutrition or clean drinking water, resulting in serious health problems in Pakistan.

“Research has shown that around 72 health issues people face are related to diet, including clean drinking water. In Pakistan, the high burden of communicable as well as non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, is largely linked to our poor dietary habits,” Professor Shahzad Ali Khan , Vice Chancellor of the Health Services Academy (HSA), told a seminar on healthy diet policy in Islamabad.

Addressing the participants of the seminar, entitled “From Concept to Action: Pathways to Food Nutrition through Healthy Diet Policy,” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Professor Khan suggested that the National Healthy Diet Policy of Pakistan (PNHDP) would be prepared but he asked that it be prepared from the perspective of health instead of food security.

“Unfortunately, whenever we discuss the issues of nutrition and diet, we look at them from the perspective of food security and always focus on undernourished sections of the society instead of discussing malnutrition, which is a more serious issue in Pakistan ,” he said. he said, adding that due to malnutrition, the vast majority of Pakistanis lacked the necessary immunity and strength to fight disease.

Citing the example of Covid-19, Professor Khan claimed that during the pandemic, only those people became seriously ill whose nutritional status was not up to the mark, either because they were malnourished or had comorbidities of them due to malnutrition. On the other hand, people who were physically fit, who ate nutritious diets, and who were physically active survived the pandemic despite being frequently infected, he said.

He said in China, most diseases are treated with the help of traditional Chinese medicines, which are mostly nutritional supplements. He also said that even in Western countries, the focus is on a healthy diet to prevent and treat diseases instead of prescribing medication.

“So, in countries like Pakistan where the incidence of communicable and non-communicable diseases is very high, we have to adopt the concept of DPASS. D is for Diet, PA is for Physical Activity, and SS is for Sleep and Stress Management,” he advised and urged policy makers to prepare the national healthy diet policy from a health perspective instead of the food security.

Faiz Easool of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) feared that over 82 percent of Pakistan’s population, or about 200 million people, do not have access to a healthy and nutritious diet, but policy makers are less concerned about this aspect of health and well-being. is.

He said that although the youth and women are the majority in Pakistan, they are never made a part of policy discussions, even though they are the most affected sections of the society. He called for attention to food, dietary patterns, and nutrition in national and provincial health and social policies.

Dr Mehreen Mujtaba, Director of Nutrition at the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS, T&C), said that statistics show that 67 percent of the population is unable to have a nutritious diet, but that around five percent able to afford. the minimum energy intake required.

She said, at the Ministry of Health, they are trying to formulate policies at the national and provincial level to improve the nutritional status, especially for women and children, and she urged the private sector, society civil society, and other parts of society to cooperate. About this.

Khansa Naeem of the TPFS presented data and statistics on malnutrition and its impacts on society, saying that malnutrition is common among children, with 8 out of 10 suffering from malnutrition, stunting, wasting, and micronutrient deficiencies such as due to lack of proper food consumption standards. .

About 10 million children have been abandoned, and some areas of the country are at emergency levels of wastage. As a result, one in every 15 children in Pakistan dies before the age of five, double the rate of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Almost half of children under the age of five are below healthy height, she said, adding that millions of them are anemic in relation to women. “The situation is worse for pregnant women (reproductive age 15 to 49 years) who suffer from high rates of anemia (42.6 percent) and iron deficiency (46.9 percent) due to maternal malnutrition,” she said.

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