PS says Muti-sectoral Approach Needed to Address Nutrition

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Jean Dixon, has cited the need for a multi-sectoral approach, incorporating agriculture, fisheries, forestry and health, to ensure that the population’s food and nutritional requirements and needs are adequately met and secured.
This, she contends, is vital if Jamaica is to effectively counter challenges which the country has faced over the past three years, pertaining to the food, energy and finance.
Speaking at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) annual staff awards ceremony at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston on
Thursday (October 14), Dr. Dixon noted that the food, energy and financial crises, present new and more significant challenges to policy makers in the attainment of food security and optimal nutritional health for Jamaicans.
She alluded to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, quoted in the media earlier this week, which indicated that Jamaica will achieve 1.7 per cent annual growth over the next five years.
“In light of that forecast, Jamaica must continue to pursue pro-poor policies in health and education as one way of reducing poverty and increasing disposable income of households. We are well aware that there is a co-relation between poverty and the country’s nutritional problems, including obesity,” the Permanent Secretary said.
Dr. Dixon pointed out that the $4.88 billion saved by persons accessing public health facilities, under the no user fee policy, instituted 27 months ago, should be interpreted as a significant contribution to people’s access to safe and adequate food.
Further that this policy has assumed “greater strategic importance” to Jamaica’s broader development agenda, in light of recent reports of an increase in the poverty level from 12.5 per cent to 16.5 per cent in 2009.
The Permanent Secretary noted that while the incidence of under-nutrition in Jamaica remains “relatively low” at four per cent, there is still “justifiable” concern about the prevalence of low birth weight, pointing to evidence of “pockets of over-nutrition”.
“Our data for 2009 indicate that 3.7 per cent of children, 0 to 36, months, who are attending child health clinics, were underweight, and seven per cent are above normal weight. Prevalence of low birth weight was 12 per cent, and anaemia was present in just under 15 per cent of pregnant women,” she informed.
Dr. Dixon pointed to what she said is an “epidemiological transition” which has occurred over the period, with a decline in under-nutrition and increase in over-nutrition.
She noted that shifts in global trade policy have resulted in greater access to imported foods and, simultaneously, a decline in the importance of agriculture and a reduction in domestic crop production. She said that despite the “best efforts” of regional governments, universal access to safe, nutritious and adequate food remains elusive.
“A 2008 study, carried out by the Ministry of Health, shows that over 98 per cent of Jamaicans consume below the daily recommended portion of vegetables and fruits. Ninety-seven per cent of persons, who are obese, were not on a weight management diet, and 94 per cent of persons with hypertension were not on a low salt diet. Our situation, really, is paradoxical with hunger and obesity co-existing, which should place the matter of access to safe and affordable foods at the centre of socio-economic and development agendas,” she informed.
Consequently, Dr. Dixon contended, the challenges Jamaica and the wider region face will not be solved in the immediate future. Noting that more than 963 million people, globally, currently experience hunger, representing a significant increase over the 800 million recorded when the Rome Declaration on World Food Security was signed in 1996, Dr. Dixon warned that this “humanitarian problem” has “implications” for world peace and global security.
In this regard, the Permanent Secretary argued that Jamaica must not lose sight of the significance of this, citing the need to safeguard the nation’s food and nutrition security, as part of an all-embracing strategy to create a healthy and stable environment.
“The Ministry of Health has an obligation to the staff of the CFNI and PAHO, who have worked tirelessly beside us as partners, to do more to scale up activities under the food and nutrition security programme. I urge PAHO to keep food security a part of its agenda in the region, and as a central focus of the Jamaica Country Co-operation Strategy,” Dr. Dixon said.

JIS Social