This is about policy forum on health and nutrition, but, the event gave an affirmation that policy here can also mean Partnership of Lawmakers in Congress, Yes! (POLICY). The forum aimed to achieve; to partner and link with the policymakers so that researches and projects’ results are translated to policy statements and recommendations may have wider use as references for crafting bills and laws.
The 2nd Congressional Policy Forum on Food and Nutrition: “Pagkain, Kalusugan at Nutrisyon: Pananaliksik tungo sa batas, programa at patakaran” of DOST-FNRI was held on December 6, 2018, Hotel Rembrandt, Tomas Morato Extension, Quezon City. This activity is part of the “Project Results to Policy Recommendations (PR to PR): The Link”. This is the Institute’s response to its mandate to yield insights from its significant research findings in order to develop and recommend policy options, strategies, and programs to address malnutrition for implementation by appropriate agencies. The first forum in Congress was conducted in December 2016.
Twenty-four (24) staff members of the 17th Congress participated in the policy forum. They were mainly Chief of Staff, Committee Secretary, Political Affairs Officer, Operations Head, and Consultant from 15 Congressional Committees. These are committees on: 1) Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources; 2) Disaster Management; 3) Economic Affairs; 4) Human Rights; 5) Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples; 6) Metro Manila Development; 7) Overseas Workers Affairs; 8) Population and Family Relations; 9) Poverty Alleviation; 10) Science and Technology; 11) Southern Tagalog Development; 12) Sustainable Development Goals; 13) Ways and Means; 14) Welfare of Children; and 15) Women and Gender Equality.
The forum also served as venue to share DOST-FNRI’s research findings and developments in the field of health, food and nutrition to people who are drafting the bills in the Congress. Volume 2 of the FNRI policy statements developed was distributed. This contained topics on anemia, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, osteoporosis, plate and food wastes, deworming, food fortification, nutrition labelling, physical activity and wellness program.
Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, DOSTFNRI’s Director introduced the DOSTFNRI as the agency mandated to look at the nutrition situation of the country. The Institute conducts nutrition studies and surveys to identify nutrition-related problems and provide possible solutions to these issues through development of products, tools and standards, conduct of nutrition intervention programs and development of policy statements which are disseminated to different stakeholders. He emphasized the role of research and development (R&D) in policy formulation by enumerating some of the Institute’s initiatives in providing relevant data as basis for policymakers to craft evidence-based policies.
Ms. Julieta B. Dorado, Supervising Science Research Specialist (SRS) of the Nutrition Intervention, Evaluation and Policy Section of the Nutrition Assessment and Monitoring Division (NIEPSNAMD) and Project Leader, presented FNRI’s Efforts in Support to Policies on Food, Health and Nutrition. She shared that the project was conceived in line with DOST-FNRI’s continuous efforts to link research and policy using evidence-based data in policy formulation.
The National Nutrition Situation of the Philippines with emphasis on the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and its risk/contributing factors to the increased incidence of NCDs was discussed by Ms. Lilibeth P. Dasco, Senior SRS of the NAMD. On the other hand, Ms. Maria Julia G. Gubat, also a Senior SRS of the Nutrition Research and Development Group (NRDG) discussed the Initiatives towards a Healthy Workplace, a project with #GoForHealthierDOST which can be a model for other organizations to conduct corporate wellness program.
The open forum provided an opportunity for the DOST-FNRI and the Congress representatives to exchange information that were beneficial to both. Some of the concerns and proposals agreed upon were:
a) collaboration between DOST-FNRI and the Committee on Science and Technology (S&T) to conduct a study that would address the increasing obesity cases due to increased intake of sugar-containing food items;
b) collaboration with the Medical Division of the Congress of the Philippines to conduct wellness programs in the Congress;
c) policies for medical practitioners prescribing individualized diet among patients to better address the latter’s medical condition. Dr. Capanzana shared that the DOST-FNRI is already conducting studies on the interaction of nutrition and genes called nutrigenomics which requires high amount of financial support;
d) suggestions that healthy food choices should be bought at lower prices to encourage consumers to eat healthier food products. There should be definite standards for food to be labelled as organic; that owners of food service/establishments be included in similar advocacies; and that food manufacturers of healthy food products be given incentives;
e) suggestion to include medical insurance companies in similar activities to encourage them to lower prices of nutrition related medical examinations and consultations.
f) since DOST-FNRI houses a wide-variety of information that can be used by different agencies as basis in crafting laws and policies, the different Committees should collaborate with the R&D institute;
g) proposal that there should be a Magna Carta on Food and Nutrition (F&N) which would encompass all the different aspects of F&N. Dr. Capanzana expressed his delight on the proposal for a holistic law on F&N and assured the participants that the Institute has enough evidences to support the crafting of the Magna Carta on F&N;
h) suggestion that the next policy forum be held at Congress to maximize attendance and which can be coordinated with the Committee on S&T.
Dr. Capanzana accepted the proposals and suggestions for collaboration, he expressed his gratitude to the participants for giving their time and effort to be at the forum. On the other hand, Mr. Donald Amado Caballero of the Committee of S&T expressed his gratitude and appreciation as well to the DOSTFNRI for consistently trying to reach policymakers through similar activities.
Truly, we can say Policy or POLICY - “Partnership of Lawmakers in the Congress, Yes!,” can be a key for our research results translated to policy statements and recommendations. In this way, health and nutrition concerns are brought forward for inclusion in the legislative agenda for a bill to be passed and be approved as a law.