The Philippines Government, industry and other stakeholders are stepping up their joint efforts to tackle the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country, introducing a number of new initiatives that encourage healthy, active lifestyles.

NCDs account for 54 percent of deaths among Filipinos and at a recent public event, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that while these illnesses are highly preventable, they have been on the rise mainly because of failure to do “regular exercise, [people’s] improper diets, and excessive drinking and smoking.”

He added that urgent action needs to be taken, saying in a statement earlier this month: “Every Filipino has the right to a healthy family, community, and country. The Department of Health will continue to work hand-in-hand with different sectors to provide options for healthy living and make it accessible to as many people as possible. It’s not too late, so we must act now.”

The recently launched “Pilipinas Go4Health,” programme encourages people to make “a personal commitment to physical activity, proper nutrition, and the prevention or cessation of smoking and alcohol consumption,” and seeks involvement from private and public sector partners across the Philippines.

Food Chamber President Edith de Leon agrees that a “whole of society” approach is needed to tackle NCDs. She added that the Philippines Food Chamber has been working collaboratively with the Department of Health to introduce voluntary Front-of-Pack (FOP) nutrition labelling as part of broader efforts to help Filipinos make informed dietary choices. Consumers are able to use the at-a-glance Guideline Daily Amounts or ‘GDAs’ to make a swift assessment of the calorie content of each serving of food.

De Leon said: “The Food Chamber actively supports the implementation of fact-based Front-of-Pack labelling to guide consumers in making informed food choices through a simple, clear, and comprehensive approach.

“This commitment is aligned with the objective of the World Health Organization and the Department of Health to address the increasing trend of lifestyle diseases or non-communicable diseases (NCDs).”

The Philippines Food Chamber has developed a GDA implementation strategy for the industry and has said that the FDA Circular 2012-015 on Front of Pack (FOP) Calorie has paved the way for the industry to join the Healthy Lifestyle Advocacy of the Department of Health – a programme which advises the public on how to make healthy diet and lifestyle choices.

“The Food and Beverage industry in the Philippines is committed to implementing programs to promote nutrition literacy and encourage physical activity alongside government, consumers, and other industry stakeholders,” said Ms de Leon.

The Chamber took part in the recent PhilHealth-Department of Health Fun Run where GDAs were introduced to the public. The Food Chamber set up a booth where they conducted free BMI readings and provided nutrition consultations to help educate people about nutrition and nutrition labelling.

“Nutrition education is a vital part of encouraging people to make healthier food choices and we are committed to building on our initial efforts with further programmes to help people make more informed food choices,” said Ms de Leon.