ISLAMABAD: While four in 10 Pakistanis are obese or overweight and 37 percent of the population suffers from hypertension, the government has decided to establish a national healthy eating policy to address the burden of disease.
Director of Nutrition at the Department of National Health Services, Dr. Baseer Khan Achakzai announced this while speaking to attendees of an event.
“To overcome the challenge of ensuring the availability and consumption of healthy, safe and nutritious diets by all population groups, the Pakistani government is committed to establishing a National Healthy Diet Policy with technical assistance from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). “This policy will provide strategic guidance to ensure the country is provided with a healthy and nutritious diet for all, and will formulate sound approaches in light of international best practices to help us overcome the challenges posed by unhealthy dietary consumption.” .
The official says the plan aims to reduce the burden of disease
On this occasion, the ministry and a GAIN team, led by Steve Godfrey, director of policy and foreign affairs, currently visiting Pakistan, formed a national technical advisory and advocacy group for the formulation of the “Pakistan National Healthy Eating Policy”.
Godfrey said: “Globally, three billion people cannot afford to eat healthy, and in Pakistan, more than two-thirds of the country’s population, or about 68% of Pakistanis, cannot afford to eat healthy.
Malnutrition contributes to six of the top 10 risk factors for the global burden of disease. We are confident that this policy provides a roadmap to ensure that a nutritious and healthy diet is provided for the country’s population, while also tackling the challenges posed by the high prevalence of malnutrition.”
According to the National Nutrition Survey 2018, more than 40 percent of Pakistani children under the age of five are stunted and almost 18 percent are underweight. Globally, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries, where more than three-quarters of deaths are due to NCDs. The burden of non-communicable diseases is increasing for Pakistan.
According to the NCD steps survey 2014-15, four out of 10 Pakistanis, that is, about 41.3 percent of the population, are obese or overweight, and 37 percent have hypertension.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had serious consequences, exacerbating the situation and thus increasing nutrition-related diseases. Pakistan has the third highest burden of type 2 diabetes worldwide with over 33 million cases.
Published in Dawn on December 7, 2022