Good Nutrition Is The Key To Healthy Living: Health Ministry

Nutrition is a key foundation for the sustainable development of human health. A healthy diet and nutrition is essential in terms of preventing and managing a number of Noncommunicable diseases
25 Feb 2017 11:52
Good Nutrition Is The Key To Healthy Living: Health Ministry

Nutrition is a key foundation for the sustainable development of human health.

A healthy diet and nutrition is essential in terms of preventing and managing a number of Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even cancers.

Good nutrition leads to the development of physical and mental health and it empowers people to reach their full potential.

Now, more than ever, we need to not only understand the dietary and health changes taking place and their consequences, but we also need to device programme and policy changes that will positively improve the total nutritional and health status of people in developing economies like Fiji.

This article provides information on the roles and responsibilities of the dietetics and nutrition section of the Wellness team based within Ministry of Health and Medical Services. The role of the dieticians and nutritional messages outlined below have been generated through an interview with the acting national advisor dietetics and nutrition, Maca Temoirokomalani.


Role of the Dietetics and Nutrition Unit

Mrs Temoirokomalani has been administering her role as national advisor for dietetics and nutrition for over two years now and she finds it both exciting and challenging.

She is a dietician by profession and before taking up the national advisor post, she has been working as a senior dietician at the Lautoka Hospital.

The unit’s role is aligned with the Health Ministry’s strategic plan and Fiji Plan of Action for Nutrition and the NCD strategic plan.

“Nutrition is a cross cutting issue and as such we will have to look at the nutrition across the life course as we call from the womb to the tomb concept.

“It is a reality that everyone has to eat for daily survival and yet, not everybody exercises. Our aim is to reach out to communities and advocate on the need for healthy and productive lifestyle.

“The nutrition has three key areas of operation, which includes clinical dietetics at hospitals, food service administration and nutrition dietetics promotion for communities,” Mrs Temoirokomalani said.


Role of Dieticians

The dietetics and nutrition unit also empowers the role of Dieticians in Fiji. Recently a meeting was also conducted for all the dieticians to look at the unit’s business plan and the proposed strategic plans for the dietetics and nutrition.

Currently, there are 75 dieticians who are based at the major hospitals and the sub-divisional hospitals in Fiji.

“Dieticians have very important role in terms of advocating for good nutrition. Their role incorporates the clinical component of nutritional and dietetics requirements in public health programmes and those attached to maternal health.

“Dieticians have 3 major areas of focus; first is assessing the nutritional status of patients in a clinical setting which is at the major hospitals and sub-divisional hospitals.

“Dieticians are important health professionals at hospitals and their role is to ensure that the diet management plan contributes effectively to the patient’s treatment and contributes toward early recovery.

“We are also at this stage trying to develop clinical protocols to streamlines our services, particularly for the recovery of patients who undergo special surgeries. We have overseas medical teams visiting Fiji so we are working on developing clinical protocols on nutrition management for paediatric care,” Mrs Temoirokomalani said.


Upcoming Activities and Plans

The unit is working collaboratively with the relevant stakeholders to take innovative approaches to promoting good nutrition. This will be achieved through enhanced networking with the government agencies, international agencies like World Health Organisations (WHO), UNICEF, non-government organisations (NGO’s) and Faith Based Organisations (FBO) so that the messages about good nutrition can be filtered down to every level of development.

“One of the new initiatives which we are comprehensively looking at is school health.

“This is aligned with the School Health Policy which was signed between Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education last year.

We are now focusing on school lunches apart from the nutritional assessments and auditing of school canteens, we are now zooming in our role by working together with the schools to establish parent and teacher support group so that we can raise awareness on the importance of healthy school lunches.

“We are also working with the communities, women and youth groups through the outreach programmes on nutritional programmes.  

“We have also developed a National Strategic Plan for Dietetics and Nutrition. It is going to be a five year plan and it’s still in its draft format.

“The overarching objective of this strategic plan it ‘to contribute to the overall goal of a healthier Fiji through improved nutrition across life course’.

“In the past years, the dietetics and nutrition didn’t have any specific plan, we relied on the strategic plans for NCD prevention.

“As a way forward to improve our role, as of last year and this year, we have developed the National Strategic Plan on Dietetics and Nutrition which aligns with the Ministry’s strategic plan. Dietetics and Nutrition strategic plan is still in the draft format and we are going to have consultations with the various stakeholders and nutrition consultants to fine tune it. Then it will submitted for approval and endorsement,” she said.


Messages on building good nutrition

With urbanisation and transition from traditional diets to those industrialised foods with high contents of sugar, salt and saturated fat and with reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables it has resulted in imbalanced nutritional patterns.

Globalisation of trade and marketing of food products are changing dietary habits in the direction of less healthy choices.

Thus advocating for good nutrition and dietetics is becoming a challenge with the changes in eating habits and modernised lifestyle.

According to Mrs Temoirokomalani lifestyle diseases occurs because of the choices we make and as such people need to remember that our health is our responsibility.

“Everyone has a role in terms of developing a healthy communities.

“There are three things that we usually advise people to closely monitor in terms of their diet intake: reduce salt, sugar and fat (these are the main causes of overweight and obesity), and also the diet frequency, volume, type and quality of food we take.

“People are advised to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables and cut down on fatty, oily and salty food.  Physical activity and exercising is also important for sustainable health benefits. It can be as simple as taking a walk or our favourite sports activities.

“Parents also has an important role in terms of managing the health of their children. They should ensure that their children are given balanced and nutritious diet.

“Parents need to emphasise to their children on healthy eating. They need to know that processed food and snacks are very high in salt and sugar and fat and they need to watch on this.

“Nutrition is across the life course and children need to be well nourished from the start for a good nutrition and health to be able to excel in their studies and their future.”


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