Combating Childhood Obesity

Health advocates pushes for ‘sin tax’ proposal on sodas, junk food

Health advocates are proposing a healthy zone around school (within 250-meter radius) and stricter alcohol marketing to help address increasing childhood obesity.

This was laid down by Department of Education and Nutrition Director III Ella Cecilia Naliponguit during a recent health forum which talked about the “DepEd Plans for Regulation of Sale and Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages (FNAB) in Schools” and the increasing obesity in school-aged children.

Recently, President-elect Rodrigo Roa Duterte has announced that imposing “sin taxes” on sodas and junk food is on his administration’s list of top priority programs. Last week, incoming Health secretary Jean Rosell-Ubial approved the tax hike proposal on soda, sugared beverages, and junk food. While incoming Cabinet member, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said he would like to enforce tax on junk food.

According to Dir. Naliponguit, there’s an increasing prevalence of type 2 or adult-onset diabetes in children (seven years old) and obesity in our school-aged children.

“We’re probably facing the first generation who would die before their parents,” said Dir. Naliponguit.

Globally, overweight and obese children were 5 percent in 2000, 6.7 percent in 2010, and 6.3 percent in 2013. It has also been noted that what’s sold and marketed around schools is unhealthier than what’s sold and marketed in school.

“Junk food is irresistible for a variety of reasons – appetizing color, addicting flavor, and status symbol for children,” said Dr. Orlando R. Bugarin, PHA director/chair, advocacy committee.

Sugared and caffeine-laced drinks and junk food are among the main culprits in the increasing cases of obesity, diabetes and diseases of the heart and blood vessels, high blood pressure, stroke and gall stones.

In a study conducted to assess the density of outdoor advertisement of foods and beverages near Philippine schools, it revealed that outdoor advertisement of foods and beverages is high. Advertising was denser in areas near schools (<250 meters) then those farther away 251-500 meters).

“The largest number of advertisement observed is for sugar sweetened drinks like soft drinks, energy drinks and sweetened tea. There’s also higher density of advertisement for unhealthy food items for private schools compared to public schools,” said Dir. Naliponguit.

And the above-mentioned reasons are why DepEd is considering a healthy zone around school (within 250-meter radius), a tobacco advertisement control approach, which is a good model; and a stronger response to restrict alcohol marketing.

“It can be done! We [just] need a policy to regulate the sale, provision, and marketing of foods to children (school food guidelines and regulations to support implementation) needs to be based on a food classification,” she added.

Dir. Naliponguit also called for strong and supportive school leadership, “education” or health literacy (empowerment) of key partners, stakeholders, and students, ongoing training, monitoring, and evaluation.

PHA’s ‘52-100’ advocacy

Started four years ago, “52-100” advocacy is PHA’s healthy lifestyle battle cry for children and adults to put lifestyle diseases at bay and thwart the fast growing incidence of CVD.

PHA prescribes a daily dose of 5 servings of vegetables/fruits, less than 2 hours of TV/gadget time; 1 hour of physical activity; 0 sugared drinks, and 0 smoking everyday to achieve a healthy body that is resistant to non-communicable diseases.

“Children always prefer sweeter foods, milk, and drinks. Early on, you should practice teaching children eating vegetables. If you start early, then they will develop a liking to it. But if you start giving them soft drinks, candies, sugared juices, they will easily develop a liking for these and it would be harder to push for healthier foods,” said Dr. Aurelia Leus, PHA director.

The DOH, DepEd, and PHA have relentlessly emphasized the wisdom of healthy eating and nutritional value of home-cooked meals. Parents, especially mothers have to painstakingly attend to the meals of the family.

“Most working parents give in to their children’s cravings for their food preferences. Stop those trips to popular fast food chains or the nearby grocery for some chips, fries, soda, and juice in tetra packs,” said Dr. Raul Lapitan, PHA president-elect.

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