Healthy eating. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), reporting on its work for the year, closed off 2018 stressing the importance of healthy diets, the tackling of nutritional challenges through school tuition, and the strengthening of regulations on food labeling. While the organization’s experts recognized progress in this area, they warned that it is still necessary to advance on nutritional education and legislation that prohibit or restrict advertising of unhealthy foods. In 2019, PAHO, in conjunction with WHO, is expected to strengthen calls for Latin American governments to enhance policies to control the labelling and advertising of ultra-processed foods and to increase investment in nutrition education and healthy environments.
PAHO maintains that in order to confront malnutrition, overweight and obesity, it is essential to focus social attention on healthy eating and to tackle the issue in regulatory terms. But PAHO signalled that promoting physical activity and reducing salt and sugar intake should not be the sole responsibility of governments but also depended on individual choice. To inform such individual choice, it was argued, it is essential that individuals have, in addition to nutritional choices at the point of purchase and consumption, access to information around basic healthy eating.
On this, they considered it necessary to advance in a warning labeling scheme that clearly displays food composition and discourages consumption of key unhealthy ingredients, combined with reduced promotional campaigns for such ingredients. They also recommended increasing investment in healthy environments and nutritional education.
To this end, PAHO highlighted the Global Business Plan formulated by the World Health Organization. They stressed that each dollar applied to improve the diet of the population should not be seen as an expense but as an investment because it implies longer term savings for governments.
PAHO cited the progress made by certain countries in this regard. Argentina, Bolivia and Panama partook in the Global Survey of School Health Students, providing information on the eating habits of adolescents between 13 and 17; Ecuador engaged in the STEPS survey that offered information on the diet of the adult population.
In 2019, PAHO will encourage governments in the region to incorporate regulations on healthy eating (mainly in warning labeling and advertising restrictions) and increase investments in the area (nutritional education and healthy environments).