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Costa Rica prioritises reducing overweight and obesity

  |   SUN Country Network, SUN UN Network

The Government of Costa Rica, working together with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and with the support of international experts, analysed the principal challenges and opportunities for achieving more sustainable food systems that contribute to combating malnutrition and rural poverty.

According to the 2015 National Household Survey (ENAHO), 21.7 per cent of the population live in poverty and 5.7 per cent suffer from extreme poverty. The poverty level in rural areas is 27.9 per cent and extreme poverty stands at 7.9 per cent.

Moreover, data from the School Weight and Height Census (2016) indicate a prevalence of malnutrition of 2 per cent in pupils aged 6 to 12 years, while 20.3 per cent were overweight and 14.2 per cent were obese. In other words, 34.6 per cent of the national school population has excess weight.

“To reverse the trend of increasing overweight and obesity, it is necessary to develop innovative policies and tools that promote sustainable food systems,” said Octavio Ramírez, FAO Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica.

The Government participated in the national dialogue on food systems and rural areas, through the ministries of National Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN), Health, and Agriculture and Livestock.

It also had the collaboration of experts from the Latin American Center for Rural Development (RIMISP); the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); the Institute for Peruvian Studies (IEP); International Food Policy Research Institute; and Industrias Melder.

In the course of the dialogue, participants identified actions towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Objective 2, to end hunger, overcome malnutrition (overweight and obesity) and promote sustainable agriculture.

 “Having effective governance and an institutional model that promotes prosperity, security and equity within the framework of the SDGs requires the reinvention of governmental action, particularly in the rural world – strengthening mechanisms for giving direction and for intersectoral and multi-stakeholder coordination and accountability – rethinking the governing role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, promoting multi-annual budgets and ensuring greater coherence of public policies and public investments,” said María del Pilar Garrido, Minister of National Planning.

Opportunities were also identified for the FAO to cooperate technically with Costa Rica to address this issue from a holistic and innovative perspective, especially with regard to rural governance, which would contribute to facilitating coordination between different State institutions in academia, the private sector and civil society.

Towards a transformation of food systems

A sustainable food system is one that provides food that is nutritious and affordable by all and in which the management of natural resources preserves ecosystems to meet current and future human needs.

“The promotion of health and healthier lifestyles and diets is a high priority for the Government of Costa Rica,” said Giselle Amador, Health Minister.

Currently, the Costa Rican agricultural sector has identified policies and initiatives aimed at ensuring the availability of varied foodstuffs, using measures that promote the production, processing, storage, supply, distribution and marketing of nutritious foods.

“The Government is seeking to reduce overweight and childhood and adolescent obesity, with objectives that express a long-term political commitment, with the participation of the private sector, academia and civil society and on the basis of effective governance,” said Tito Díaz, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Mesoamerica.

To achieve these objectives and ensure that food systems are more sustainable, fairer, more inclusive and more sensitive to nutrition requires the participation of key actors in States.

With this in mind, international experts working in food systems took part in a regional forum in San José on 27 and 28 June, with the aim of identifying challenges and opportunities for the food systems of the Latin America and the Caribbean region and fostering its transition to tackle the problems of overweight and obesity.

The forum provided opportunities for the exchange of information, methodologies and evidence between specialists in attendance, also promoting the identification of holistically-focused innovative proposals and solutions to boost the development of public policies to meet these challenges in the countries of the region.

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