By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed concern over the increasing number of unhealthy children in the country.
Health authorities have attributed this to failing food systems and improper diet.
De Lima, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, issued the statement as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a global report warning against the rise of unhealthy Filipino children and adolescents.
De Lima said it was incumbent upon the government to promote health awareness and proper nutrition among Filipinos, especially the young ones, to protect them from developing detrimental health conditions in the long run and ensure a quality way of living for them.
“The State should also ensure that healthy food options are available in the market and are accessible for everyone, especially the poor, by encouraging business establishments to sell healthier yet affordable food to consumers, among others,” she added.
UNICEF reported that one out of three Filipino children under five years old is stunted or too short for their age while seven percent of them are too thin for their height. A tenth of Filipino adolescents, meanwhile, are now overweight.
In its global report, it noted that children and adolescents in the Philippines have increased vulnerability to diseases due to poor health-seeking behavior, incomplete immunization, poor hygiene and care practices, and inadequate diet.
UNICEF also cited poor diet, inadequate nutrition and a failing food system as the top reasons why more and more Filipino children are not growing healthily these days.
De Lima pointed out that the government should not forget to value the people’s right to health despite the many issues hounding the state.
“Health is a human right, and the State is duty-bound to promote and value people’s right to health while instilling a sense of health consciousness among them,” she said.
To help address the growing problems of improper nutrition among Filipinos, De Lima said she hopes that her Senate colleagues would look at her proposed measure requiring restaurants and fastfood chains to disclose calorie content and nutritional information in their menus.
“It is high time to have a law in our country mandating the disclosure of ‘nutritional information’ in menus of food service establishments to enable consumers to make more informed and healthier food choices, promote health awareness and proper dieting,” she said.
Under her Senate Bill 854, or the “Nutritional Information Disclosure Act,” food establishments are mandated to disclose in a “clear and conspicuous manner” on their menus and menu boards the calorie content information, which shall be adjacent to the name of the standard menu item.