Embracing Uncommon Collaborations for a Healthy Asia

Dietary imbalances coupled with the growing burden of malnutrition is of a growing concern globally. However, the problem is acute in Asia with 48% overweight/obese children, 24% stunted and 10% wasted children living in this part of the world.

On 26 July, the Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN) hosted its Fourth Annual Roundtable in Jakarta, Indonesia by gathering regional leaders from across sectors including the President’s office of Indonesia, Ministries of Health, Academia, Inter-Governmental Organisations (IGOs) and the food industry to explore strategies to tackle the growing burden of malnutrition in the region.

“A platform that enables open and honest discussions between stakeholders across sectors is imperative to improve the health status in Asia” said Mr Adhi Lukman, Chairman of the Indonesian Food and Beverage Association (GAPMMI) in his the opening address. He also emphasised the importance of working closely with local stakeholders to deliver country-level solutions in response to the health challenges threatening the region.

Mr Adhi Lukman addressing the need for open dialogues between stakeholders to advance the regional health agenda in his opening address.

With the evolving policy landscape to curb the growing dual burden of malnutrition in Asia, Mr Steven Bartholomeusz, Policy Director of Food Industry Asia and one of the founding partners of ARoFIIN, shared some insights on the progress made through the platform since its inception in 2015.

Propelled by the successful launch of the report on “Tackling Obesity in ASEAN: Prevalence, impact, and guidance on interventions” and follow-up workshops in several ASEAN countries that aimed to identify tailored interventions to promote healthy behaviours to children – Mr Bartholomeusz revealed two pilot programmes that will be implemented in Thailand and Indonesia later this year.

Mr Steven Bartholomeusz, highlighting the key ARoFIIN milestones since it was founded in 2015.

He also addressed the importance of fostering healthy behaviours among school-aged children which is the focal point of the collaborations with the United Nations World Food Programme, the Nutrition Association (PERSAGI) in Indonesia, Thailand Food and Drug Administration and Mahidol University, Thailand.

With ARoFIIN acting as a catalyst for multi-stakeholder action, the 4th Roundtable discussed the challenges faced by each sector in tackling malnutrition which included – the lack of alignment between government ministries and other stakeholders as a result of differing agendas, lack of supporting research that reflect local health status and consumer eating and lifestyle habits to support policy development alongside budget limitations to combat the emerging health challenges.

Delegates discussing the challenges and opportunities associated with cross-sector partnerships in Asia

Through the discussions, it was understood that a common agenda should be established across agencies to develop a sensitive approach that is localised and nutrition-specific to encourage the adoption of healthy lifestyles and to end all forms of malnutrition in Asia.

The Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN)
, was set up and convened by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), an agency of the Ministry of Health, Singapore, Academy of Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) and Food Industry Asia (FIA), to leverage public-private partnerships by gathering experts from across government, academia, industry and civil societies to initiate and sustain a regional, multi-stakeholder dialogue on the role of food innovation to tackle malnutrition, obesity and chronic diseases.

For further information. please visit the website www.ARoFIIN.org or contact secretariat@arofiin.org

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