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Tackling Obesity in ASEAN: Indonesia’s Healthy Eating Campaign

Published on 20 June 2018

Indonesia’s economic growth over the past three decades has produced a burgeoning middle class that is increasingly urbanised and sedentary.

According to the “Tackling Obesity in ASEAN” report, commissioned by the Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN) and launched in 2017, the prevalence of overweight/obesity is emerging in Indonesia, with 24.5% of its adult population overweight and 5.7% obese. On the other end of the spectrum, 37.2% of children under the age of five are stunted, which also increases the risks of developing NCDs when they are older.

Larger working populations, longer commuting times, along with changing diets and lifestyles have contributed to the inadequate consumption of fresh produce and increased intakes of processed and pre-prepared foods that are often high in carbohydrates and fats, resulting in a spike in the overweight/obesity status in Indonesia. Furthermore, some local cultures within Indonesia relate an overweight/obese child as healthy whilst being underweight is considered shameful to the mother.

“GERMAS” Framework
There is a wealth of evidence indicating that Indonesians do not follow a balanced diet, particularly consuming twice as much cereals and less than half the recommended daily allowance of fruit and vegetables on average. The GERMAS “Healthy Indonesia” Movement of Healthy Living Community Framework was initiated in response to the growing health concerns by the President of the Republic of Indonesia to strengthen Indonesia’s health development, incorporating several pillars to promote a healthy Indonesia.

An extension to the framework to change health behaviours, focused on reducing the rates of stunting, was launched last December by the vice-president. One of the key elements included in the programme was the “My Plate (Isi Piringku)” campaign, which describes the proportion of carbohydrate, protein, vegetables and fruit each meal should contain.

With behavioural changes leading to more sedentary lifestyles increasingly among children, the scheme aims to drive change using a cost-effective model targeting individuals and the community by tapping on their motivations to improve health.

School settings are recognised as an ideal and crucial starting point, to help children who are the future agents for change to acquire basic knowledge in the areas of food, nutrition and health, which can be carried through adulthood.

The proposed approach not only seeks to teach important principles around nutrition, such as having fruits and vegetables, to both school-age children and the communities – it also integrates nutrition improvement in their diets through the provision of fruits and vegetables in their school meals. This would facilitate the improvement in learning achievements and nutritional status of school-going children.

Moreover, this programme can empower local economies – particularly farmers and other local business owners – to supply fresh produce to schools, further strengthening community engagement and the support towards a healthier Indonesia.

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