The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for “a rethink of the way in which the food system is managed,” highlighting that “the health sector and the food sector need to work together” in developing solutions to health and nutrition challenges.

Speaking at a three day United Nations meeting held earlier this month, Hans Troedsson, Executive Director of the WHO Director-General’s Office said: “We are today facing an epidemic of poor diets and low physical activity…this will not go away by itself. We need to address it urgently now and in the future.”

A collaborative approach to tackling these challenges is already being adopted in a number of countries in Asia, including Malaysia, whose efforts were recently highlighted by WHO regional director for Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young.

"Malaysia has been a pioneer in addressing NCD prevention and control through multi-sectoral actions by collaborating with other sectors such as the ministries, NGOs, community-based groups and business entities,” he said during last year’s WHO Regional Meeting on National Multi-sectoral Plans for NCD Prevention and Control.

The strategic collaboration between industry, the Malaysian Government and other stakeholders to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Malaysia has resulted in the implementation of various initiatives in the country, including the recently launched “Responsible Advertising to Children Pledge”.

The Pledge forms part of the industry’s wider commitment to support healthy lifestyles and is just one of many initiatives that have recently been carried out by industry, including:

  • The annual celebration of Nutrition Month Malaysia which was launched in 2002 and which seeks to create greater awareness on the importance of a healthy lifestyle;
  • The establishment of an industry Health and Nutrition Working Group in September 2011 to strengthen the knowledge and awareness of NCD risk factors;
  • The voluntary roll-out by industry of front-of-pack labelling on guideline daily amounts (GDAs) in April 2012;
  • The reduction of fat, sugar and sodium content and increase of functional ingredients in around 300 products since 2000; and
  • Partnering with government on the development of guidelines, including the development of the National Plan of Action for Nutrition of Malaysia 2006-2013 

During a speech given earlier this year, Chairman of the Malaysian Food Manufacturing Group (FMM MAFMAG), and AFBA Chairman for Malaysia Mr Mohd Shah Hashim, noted that the success of these initiatives is a result of the industry’s partnership with other stakeholders, and in particular the Government through the Ministry of Health.

“According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2008 to 2013 Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, one of the key objectives of the Plan is to promote partnerships.

“We at FMM MAFMAG believe that Malaysia is already at the forefront of such partnership as our relationship with the Ministry of Health in combating NCDs stem from more than 12 years of dialogues and discussions,” Mr Mohd Shah Hashim said. “We appreciate that the Ministry of Health respects and recognizes that the private sector can and will play a role towards finding a solution in combating obesity and NCDs”.

Moving forward, Mr Mohd Shah Hashim highlighted that the food and beverage industry is “committed to finding a long-term sustainable solution” to reduce the prevalence of NCDs.

“We will continue with our three commitments towards combating the incidence of NCDs in Malaysia – continue to increase the production of healthier food choices to Malaysians, adopt an active role in multi-sectoral partnerships, and engage wider industry/governmental participation in NCD prevention and control programmes,” he said.

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