Nourishing Minds, Nurturing Lives: Zuellig Family Foundation Hosts Webinar on Nutrition Governance

News | by Krizzia Esperanza

Believing that leadership, governance, and action are the key ingredients to combat malnutrition, the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) invited municipal and provincial government health and nutrition officers, partners, and stakeholders to a webinar on nutrition governance last April 26, 2024.

Gathering around 130 participants, the activity titled “Nourishing Minds, Nurturing Lives” aimed to introduce ZFF’s Nutrition Governance Program, Pook Malusog, and to explore the importance of strong and driven leadership and governance in addressing the problem of malnutrition. Dr. Joyce Ann Viar, ZFF Nutrition Portfolio Director, led the discussion, followed by Dr. Ma. Esmeralda Silva, Professor at the Department of Health Policy and Administration of UP Manila College of Public Health, who tackled nutrition governance in Sarangani.

“Comparing the Philippines to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, we are in the top 5 with the highest stunting rates, and given this current reality, there really is a need to boost and beef up our nutrition programs,” Dr. Viar presented. She gave emphasis to programs addressing malnutrition during the First 1,000 Days (F1KD) of life—a critical stage in brain development.

While interventions to malnutrition are outlined in the Philippine Nutrition Action Plan, including the focus on F1KD, she explained that “the added value of ZFF is ensuring that provinces, municipalities, and barangays have these [health and nutrition] services in place.” Dr. Viar shared that Pook Malusog is ZFF’s program for local and community leaders, and frontline workers to enhance their technical and leadership skills, to improve local health and nutrition system, and ultimately achieve better health and nutrition outcomes. ZFF has a package of interventions tailored for each level of governance—for provinces, cities, municipalities, barangays, and even for families.

In her presentation, Dr. Silva emphasized the pivotal role of nutrition governance in supporting accelerated improvements in nutrition particularly in the case of Sarangani. In a study that they did, the province and its 7 municipalities showed substantial improvements in malnutrition prevalence rates among 0-59 months old children and nutritionally-at-risk pregnant mothers. Among the factors identified as contributing to this positive outcome, she highlighted the strong support of provincial, municipal, and barangay officials. “This is attributed to their deeper appreciation of nutrition and its underlying systems, and the [Local Chief Executives] acknowledge the significant role that ZFF’s Nutrition Governance Program played in helping them in this aspect,” Dr. Silva remarked.

Invited reactors, Dr. Catalino P. Dotollo Jr. of the National Nutrition Council Region VIII and Ms. Blessile G. Par of the Manila Water Foundation, agreed with the presenters that good governance, action leadership, multi-sectoral approach and political will and support are at the heart of nutrition efforts. Ms. Par said, “We can see the power of the LGUs (Local Government Units) when they prioritize [nutrition], when it is top of mind, we can see the change over time. The private sector will always be here to help and support the LGUs, but it is more important that they are open and are willing to jump in with us.”

Towards the end of the webinar, one of the questions raised was how ZFF were able to secure political commitment—get leaders on board. Dr. Viar responded, “You have to have good data. You have to present to your leaders the reality, what is happening on the ground. Part of ZFF’s work is to show our leaders the urgency to act on the nutrition situation.” Mr. Austere A. Panadero, ZFF President and Executive Director, in his synthesis, called upon leaders to reexamine their systems and advocated for nutrition to be considered as a “major development outcome that local governments through their leaders would want to address and improve.”

Replay the webinar here:


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