School nutrition policies: taking action to prevent noncommunicable diseases
In collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, WHO has launched 2 pilot projects focusing on improving school nutrition policies and interventions in primary health care in selected countries. The projects aim to support the effective implementation of evidence-based interventions and policies for tackling noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
The pilot projects will be carried out in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, where the implementation of school nutrition policies has not been consistently optimal.
NCDs are a leading cause of death in the WHO European Region, and pose a significant threat to the health of people everywhere. Fewer than 50% of countries worldwide have implemented WHO-recommended best-buy policies for tackling NCDs. The WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of NCDs has launched a series of projects in countries across the Region to close this gap between evidence and practice.
Closing the know–do gap in NCD prevention
In Kyrgyzstan, the “Concept of rational and healthy nutrition of the population of the Kyrgyz Republic in 2021–2025”, which includes a focus on school nutrition policies, was signed in 2020. Amendments to the law are also being made to ban advertising of foods with high salt, sugar and fat content on school grounds in the country.
“The foundations of a person’s health are laid in childhood, and that’s why it’s so important to develop healthy habits and value-based attitudes during this period of childhood,” noted Dr Maria Kushubakova from the Department of Disease Prevention and State Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance of the Ministry of Health and Social Development of Kyrgyzstan.
“Insufficient intake of nutrients during childhood negatively affects physical development and academic performance, and contributes to metabolic disorders and chronic pathology,” she added.
Dr Kushubakova concluded, “For the further sustainable development of nutrition in schools, it is necessary to continue the implementation of school nutrition policies.”
The aim of the pilot project on implementation research in Kyrgyzstan is thus to improve the uptake of these policies by identifying possible barriers and bottlenecks, as well as enablers of success.
“We started this project to figure out where the challenges are and how we can improve the implementation of good and cost-efficient policies and interventions,” explained Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, ad interim Programme Manager of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at WHO/Europe.
An integrated approach
To ensure an integrated approach that links research and practice to improved public health interventions, the pilot projects will:
- build up national interdisciplinary teams from different institutions;
- engage the teams from the beginning in planning and conducting the projects to ensure their sustainability;
- conduct an online seminar series on practical examples of implementation research;
- collaborate with international experts on implementation research (Johns Hopkins University); and
- involve early-career researchers.
These projects aim to improve people’s health through better-informed policies, improved service delivery, and the support and empowerment of communities through collaboration, in line with the WHO European Programme of Work 2020–2025.