While imposing new taxes on ‘junk food’ could help curb children’s consumption of food with little or no nutritional value, Senator Win Gatchalian says it is equally important to protect children from harmful commercial marketing that promotes unhealthy products.
A study released this year by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and international medical journal Lancet flagged commercial entities’ promotion of addictive substances and unhealthy commodities such as sugar-sweetened beverages, salted snack foods, and fried fast food, among others.
These products are linked to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Since most learners would be spending more time at home and on their devices, where they are exposed to harmful commercial marketing messages, Gatchalian said it is crucial to build on their media and information literacy so they can fully understand the dangers posed by these products. Gatchalian also reiterated that children should observe healthy habits to protect themselves from the threat of COVID-19.
Gatchalian added that before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, Filipino children and adolescents were already suffering from undernutrition and malnutrition. Based on UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children: Children, Food and Nutrition, one in three Filipino children under the age of five are stunted or too short for their age, while roughly seven percent are too thin for their height.
The same study revealed that one in ten adolescents are obese because of wrong eating habits. It also pointed out that in the last fifteen years, adolescent obesity among Filipinos tripled because processed foods rich in salt, fat, and sugar are becoming more accessible and affordable.
“Dahil nananatili ang mga kabataan sa kanilang mga tahanan, nakatutok sa kanilang mga gadgets o sa telebisyon, mas malaki ang posibilidad na makumbinsi sila ng mga mapanlinlang na mga mensahe tungkol sa junk food at iba pang nakakapinsalang mga produkto. Ang paglinang sa kaalaman ng mga kabataan tungkol sa mga produktong ito ay mahalaga upang mapanatili natin silang ligtas at malusog lalo na ngayong panahon ng pandemya,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
Gatchalian also said that health education will play a role in helping learners become more critical of harmful commercial marketing. In Senate Bill No. 1565 or the Education in the New Normal Act, Gatchalian is proposing the integration of health education in the daily lessons and activities under a hybrid learning system. The proposed measure also taps parent-teacher groups to promote health information sharing.