Mobilising Innovation Expertise to Tackle Obesity

World Obesity Day, which took place on 11 October 2015, sought to highlight the impact of obesity on people’s lives, health systems and economies. As part of its theme to communicate the impact of obesity in these three areas, World Obesity Day seeks to recognise innovative initiatives being undertaken around the world to tackle obesity. One such initiative taking place in this part of the world is the Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN).

Set up earlier this year, ARoFIIN is a public-private partnership that brings together experts from across government, academia, industry, non-governmental and civil society sectors in Asia, to initiate and sustain regional, multi-stakeholder dialogue on the role of food innovation in tackling obesity and chronic disease in Asia.

Recently, ARoFIIN took a significant step forward since its launch in January 2015, with a call for appointments to four taskforces that will coordinate the work of the Roundtable over the next few years. 

Taskforce 1 focuses on establishing a clear governance structure for ARoFIIN, facilitating communications and debate, and formalising the ARoFIIN initiative and taskforce projects. Working closely with the ARoFIIN Steering Committee, this group will develop strategies in order to accelerate knowledge-sharing on product reformulation and innovation that address obesity and chronic disease.

Taskforce 2 is focused on consumers. Its members will establish a research consortium to facilitate Research & Development in food innovation related to diets and consumer preferences in Asia, and commission a cost-impact study on the burden of obesity in Asia.

Taskforce 3 looks at processes and enablers that will cultivate a positive regulatory climate for innovation. While Taskforce 4 will look at the double-burden of under-nutrition and obesity in Asia, and assess how food supply-distribution mechanisms can be optimised through joined-up dialogue in inter-governmental fora. 

working toward optimisation of best distribution channels and harmonising dialogue in inter-governmental fora.

“We are confident that these four Taskforces will help provide the foundation and framework for all the work to be done on this exciting journey ahead,” said Associate Professor Tan Sze Wee, Deputy Executive Director of A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council, one of the founding members and convenors of ARoFIIN.

“Collectively, members of the taskforces should strive in excellence along these areas: A progressive focus in engaging multi-party collaborations through strategic mapping of expertise; the ability to effectively communicate relevant information on a broad range of topics; and providing the education and experience in policies; and trends related to food innovation and nutrition,” he added.

“ARoFIIN presents us with a tremendous opportunity to bring a diverse range of multi-disciplinary expertise to the table,” said Dr. Wong Yee Ting, ARoFIIN Coordinator and Head of Nutrition, Innovation & Partnerships at FIA.

“Our members are key decision-makers in their respective fields, coming together to work toward the single goal of tackling obesity and chronic diseases through food innovation. With the ARoFIIN Taskforces in place, we hope to incubate on-the-ground projects that will deliver measurable outcomes based on sound scientific knowledge. These multi-stakeholder collaborations transcend language and culture, uniting minds through shared values of improving nutrition for people in Asia.”

ARoFIIN was launched at the inaugural Roundtable on 30 January 2015, gathering 41 senior practitioners from 11 Asian countries and appointing six founding members of the ARoFIIN Steering Committee. The Singapore Health Promotion Board (HPB), Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS), A*STAR and Food Industry Asia (FIA) are joint sponsors of ARoFIIN.

“To effectively tackle a global issue like obesity, collaborations – particularly public-private partnerships – are necessary to the process”, said Dr. Wong. “The teamwork across these Taskforces gives us the ability to scale up projects at a quicker rate, ease the transfer of technology and skills, and conduct wider outreach and dissemination of knowledge and resources.”

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