A team of Ghanaians who left for Tokyo, Japan on an experiential course to study the Japanese multi-sector approach to tackling nutrition challenges has arrived home.
Japan is seen as one of the most nutrition conscious nations in the world. The country has a comprehensive system aimed at inculcating good nutrition habits in its people starting from birth.
The 11-member Ghanaian team is made up of people from diverse backgrounds including health, education, finance, academia (research), agriculture, communication, regulation and policy.
The programme, which is being sponsored by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is the third of its kind for Ghana. It is a country-specific programme designed to help equip participants with skills to help mainstream nutrition as a development agenda in Ghana.
SCALING UP NUTRITION (SUN)
Ghana, in collaboration with its development partners, has come up with a number of nutrition interventions; but these interventions have been usually sector/ministry/agency – specific without any efforts to link works by various sectors. This usually results in duplication of efforts and the inability to consolidate them. As part of efforts to help consolidate its nutrition efforts the country joined the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement in 2011.
The SUN came into being when world leaders became convinced that a lot of the problems being faced by developing nations can be traced to poor nutrition. Their conviction was based on a series of research works which were published in the world-acclaimed Scientific Journal, The Lancet, in 2008, giving empirical evidence of the role nutrition plays in building the critical, healthy human resource of every nation. For instance, it’s been well documented that the type of food fed to an infant can have a direct effect on his/her cognitive abilities (intelligence). The ability of an individual to stay focused and concentrate on work during the day without unnecessarily wearing has been linked to one’s food habits (type and variety of food, frequency of meals etc).
Shokuiku (Healthy Diet Education)
Among the issues studied include how the Japanese government has been able to rally the whole country around promotion of good nutrition, especially among school children, a commitment which has led to a national week of nutrition promotion and education called Shokuiku.
Shokuiku events bring together diet/food and nutrition players/stakeholders within one space for colourful, comprehensive education on nutrition. Stakeholders include academics, NGOs, Associations, Food Companies, Volunteers, Farmers, Dieticians and. It’s a space where individuals get every consultation related to nutrition free of charge. Nutrition education is interspersed with games, competitions and rewards; all aimed at increasing people’s knowledge in nutrition.
The team also studied how Japan has been able to successfully implement its school lunch programme with covers more than 90 percent of elementary schools and 80 percent of junior high schools. The Japanese school lunch programme goes beyond just feeding school kids balanced diet at lunch time to include a total nutrition education. Kids have the opportunity to know the nutrients in foods provided and their importance to the body. To help kids appreciate the source of the food they are occasionally sent to farms where they observe and participate in planting and harvesting of food as well as engage with the farmers. That is to say the Japanese school lunch programme has the overarching aim of imbibing into child a good food culture.
How coordination is done among municipal and district assemblies to achieve a concerted goal at the national level is also part of the goals of the team. As such the team has visited local governments and districts to learn how they coordinate their activities.
In order to generate the evidence for the continuous investment in nutrition, Japan continuously engages in nutrition research in the form of annual Health and Nutrition Surveys. The Ghanaian team is investigating how such a task is sustained.
The group has come with an action plan, after its three-week visit, to help scale up nutrition interventions in Ghana.
Source: Kwaku Botwe