Private sector role in improving nutrition at the Asian congress of nutrition
Axton Salim, Co-Chair of the SUN Business Network’s Advisory Group and Director of Indofood spoke of the role of the private sector in accelerating the end of malnutrition at the 2019 Asian Congress of Nutrition. The Conference, entitles ‘Nutrition and Food Innovation for Sustained Wellbeing’ took place on 4-7th August in Bali, Indonesia. It was hosted by the Food and Nutrition Society of Indonesia and the Federation of Asian Nutrition Societies. The Conference was attended by nutrition experts, policy makers and researchers.
The plenary session, ‘Accelerating the End of Hunger and Malnutrition’ brought together Prof Martin Bloem (John Hopkins University), Dr Ir Subandi (SUN Focal Point Indonesia) and Axton Salim to discuss the prevalence of malnutrition in Asia, where 14 million children experience at least two forms of malnutrition, including overweight, anaemia and stunting.
Axton Salim spoke of the important role the private sector can play in overcoming malnutrition by creating healthy foods using local ingredients and inexpensive production costs to ensure they can be sold at an affordable price to low income consumers. In addition, he outlined five key areas through which the private sector can contribute to improved nutrition:
- Agriculture & Nutrition: Provide investment in technological innovation
- Large Scale Food Fortification: Fortify staples and condiments with essential vitamins
- Specially formulated foods for targeted groups: Increase the availability of specially formulated foods
- Workforce Nutrition Programmes: Educate employees about the importance of nutritious foods
- Supporting nutrition sensitive interventions: Play a key role in strengthening underlying health systems
As Director of Indofood, Axton Salim has introduced a number of initiatives to improve nutrition in Indonesia, which includes:
- Fortification of flour with B vitamins and iron to meet the micronutrient needs of the population.
- Launch of nutritious foods marketed at youth (e.g. healthy cereals, snacks and biscuits containing a range of vitamins and minerals).
- Introduction of a Workforce Nutrition Programme for Indofood employees which comprises sport programmes, medical check-ups, healthy food served in the canteen, and lactation rooms. So far, 25,000 employees have benefitted from this programme and Indofood has reported reduced absenteeism due to illness and increased productivity.
- Development of an adolescent nutrition education mobile app to show teenagers the importance of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, as well as encouraging the growth of local start-ups in the fields of food, nutrition and health.