The Nutrition Act of the Philippines (PD 491) issued in 1974 created the National Nutrition Council which is the country’s highest policy-making and coordinating body on nutrition. It also declared July as Nutrition Month during which nutrition efforts are expected to be beefed up in view of enhancing awareness on proper nutrition. As such, many localities and agencies come up with monthlong activities. For so many years in Benguet Province though, the celebration extends for months and culminates in November lengthening period of emphasizing proper nutrition. The celebration also coincides with the Adivay celebration.
One local government unit that annually celebrates the Nutrition Month is Atok, Benguet. This writer was lucky enough to have been involved in the Culminating Program last Tuesday (Nov. 29) upon the invitation of Mayor Franklin Smith. Schoolchildren and residents of the different barangays joined with some municipal employees and barangay officials. Apart from the opening program were contests like poster-making, creative writing, nutri-jingle and cooking. Squash-based porridge, snacks and main dishes were prepared. Squash is a very nutritious vegetable with high amounts of vitamin A particularly beta-carotene, vitamins and minerals. It grows easily even in shallow places and is hoped to be an addition to the town’s major products like potato, cabbage, etc. Kudos to the Nutrition Committee headed by Mayor Smith; the supportive Vice Mayor Hon. Angelito Galao; Councilor Marilou Zarate who chairs the Health Committee and other councilors; the dynamic Municipal Health Services Office personnel led by Dr. Dominga Nazir; MNAO Linda Tabdi! I take this time to acknowledge the kindness and warm accommodation of the municipality as the partnership with the BSU especially in the training of our nutrition students continues.
Worthy of emphasis in my talk was proper nutrition because good health never happens without such. Individuals can start by being equipped with the proper knowledge on what and how much to eat which is the ultimate goal of nutrition month celebrations. Malnutrition which comes in various forms can impact on the individual, the community and the country. To cite a few, an undernourished person will have less antibodies, hence weak resistance especially to infectious diseases like covid-19. Frequent illness entail unnecessary school absences even dropout leading to less qualification for employment. Illness can aggravate malnutrition and certainly is costly to the family. Being overweight or obese puts a person at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and many more degenerative diseases. If malnourished adult, expect low productivity. With more malnourished and sick, the country has to spend on more health infrastructure, supplies and personnel. Healthy lifestyle which includes diet and exercise need to be emphasized all throughout the life stages. Indeed, nutrition literacy need to be developed.
Local government units can improve their nutrition programs to contribute to the DOH thrusts of achieving health literacy, healthy settings such as communities, workplaces, schools and offices by enhancing among others, the implementation of nutrition-specific and sensitive programs, issuance of policies/ordinances, hiring/designating an employee who will work full time on nutrition, continuous capacity building of the workforce, ensuring functionality of Barangay/Municipal Nutrition Committee and availability of a committee-prepared action plans and monitoring implementation of the same. Including adolescents, adults like employees and elderly in the programs and allotment of adequate budget are called for too. Go, go all LGUs!