In a marriage of hard science and common wisdom, the United Nations health agency is holding a symposium aimed at encouraging people in the Asia and Pacific region to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Asserting that boosting consumption of these fresh foods can cut obesity and other diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) will open the “Fourth International 5 A Day Symposium” next week in New Zealand.
The event will bring together health professionals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), retailers and producer industry representatives to strengthen initiatives worldwide to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.
Co-sponsored by WHO and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, the two-day symposium opening on Monday in Christchurch will focus on encouraging countries in the Asia/Pacific region to develop new 5 A Day-type initiatives, such as partnerships with supermarkets.
“WHO works across the entire spectrum of nutritional health problems, from malnutrition to obesity,” explained WHO Assistant Director-General Dr. Catherine Le Galès Camus. “As well as helping prevent chronic non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers, adequate fruit and vegetable intake also helps reduce nutritional deficiencies and increases resistance to infectious diseases.”
According to the World Health Report, at least 2.7 million deaths globally each year can be traced to low fruit and vegetable intake. Across the planet, there are more than 1 billion overweight adults – at least 300 million of them obese. An estimated 171 million people worldwide have diabetes, and this figure likely to double by 2030.
The symposium will examine ways to adapt the "5 A Day" fruit and vegetable promotion concept to different countries, as well as how to influence school, retail and job environments to support this goal. Key messages will include the importance of prevention in addressing chronic non-communicable diseases, and the role that 5 A Day-type programmes can play in influencing parental decisions and educating the young on healthy eating to instil healthy patterns for life.