Nutrition Education and Consumer Awareness
Capacity Building for the Development of Food-based Dietary Guidelines to Promote Healthy Diets and Lifestyles
Title: "Capacity Building for the Development of Food-based Dietary Guidelines to Promote Healthy Diets and Lifestyles"
The aim of this project was to build national capacities in the development of nutrition educational tools and communication strategies to address the problems of increasing obesity, cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers in four Caribbean countries. The governments of Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines sought FAO assistance in developing national Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDGs). A related activity was the promotion of dietary changes in secondary schools in Grenada.
Each of the four countries developed their national FBDG using a 10 - step process of assessing the national nutrition situations, identifying and prioritizing problems to be addressed, building support among key stakeholders, creating and testing communication messages and planning and implementing communication strategies. These activities are described in detail in the Developing Food-based Dietary Guidelines: a manual from the English-speaking Caribbean.
Four inter-country training workshops were conducted with expert consultants. The workshops included information on the purpose of FBDGs and steps for preparing FBDGs; development of the technical guidelines of the FBDGs based on assessments of the health and nutrition situations; field-testing methodologies for designing culturally appropriate messages and materials; development of communication strategy and preparation of work-plans to develop and implement FBDGs.
A pilot nutrition education and communication programme was conducted in Grenada to promote consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce consumption of excessively fatty and sweet foods in secondary schools. Students, teachers, food service staff and vendors, as well as students' families participated in discussions about nutrition and ways to promote healthier diets and lifestyles. Together, they developed and implemented a communication strategy to promote healthy diets and change the school environment.
Nutritionists in each country developed a set of national FBDGs and a food guide. These guidelines were approved by the national authorities and announced at a national launch event involving high government officials and mass media.
In Grenada, the two pilot schools made tangible changes with regard to the provision of healthier food choices, including an increase in the availability of local fresh fruit. Due to the success of the pilot intervention, the Ministry of Education plans to implement the project in all secondary schools in the country.
The national staff acquired new knowledge and skills in nutrition assessment, planning and promoting dietary changes.
FBDGs can form the basis for a long term strategy to improve the dietary patterns in each country. The messages aim to prevent chronic, diet-related health problems which are rising in the Caribbean region.
The FBDGs can assist in setting goals for national policies with regard to agricultural production, health systems and education systems.
The pilot in secondary schools in Grenada led to provision of healthier foods being made available in schools, including increases in the availability of locally produced fresh fruits.
The project created a network of resource persons in Grenada and the Caribbean and supported capacity building efforts in implementing nutrition education and communication activities for the public.