Brazil first country to make specific commitments in UN Decade of Action on Nutrition

3 commitments, to be achieved by 2019, focus on curbing obesity

22 MAY 2017 | GENEVA – Today Brazil became the first country to make SMART¨1 commitments as part of the United Nations (UN) Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016–2025. Ricardo Barros, Minister of Health of Brazil, made the announcement at the UN in Geneva, on the first day of the Seventieth World Health Assembly.

Brazil’s 3 commitments, to be achieved by 2019, are as follows:

Brazil commitment on decade of action on nutrition
Left to Right - Sr Ricardo Barros, Minister of Health of Brazil; Dr Carissa Etienne, Regional Director for WHO in the Americas and Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases
WHO/NHD/J. Muriel
  • Stop the growth in the adult obesity rate (which currently stands at 20.8%)
  • Reduce by at least 30% consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among adults
  • Increase by at least 17.8% the proportion of adults who regularly eat fruit and vegetables

Brazil outlined specific policy measures it will take to achieve these goals. These include fiscal measures (tax reductions, subsidies) to reduce the price of fresh foods, microcredit loans to family farmers, and cash transfers to poor families so that they can buy fresh produce.

The government also committed to providing healthier meals and nutrition education to children in public schools, and increasing public procurement of foods from family farmers. They will develop and distribute new educational materials on healthy diet for the population, teachers and health workers.

They will reduce the amount of salt and sugars in processed foods, and revise regulations on food labelling so that added sugars are declared on the front of the pack. They will regulate the promotion of food and drinks targeting children, and restrict sales and advertisement of processed food in health and education facilities and public agencies.

They will increase breastfeeding promotion through the country’s primary health care clinics, increase the number of physical activity facilities, and improve access to care for people who are overweight or obese.

Currently, noncommunicable diseases are the cause of more than 70% of deaths in Brazil. Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.

At a ceremony in Geneva, the commitments made by Brazil were welcomed by Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases, and Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) the Regional Director for WHO in the Americas.

“The most important part of the Nutrition Decade is action, and Brazil is the first to make a SMART commitment. We hope that many others will follow,” said Dr Chestnov.

Brazil commitment ceremony on decade of action on nutrition
WHO/NHD/J. Muriel

“In the Americas, noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of premature deaths. I hope other countries in the Region will follow Brazil and take steps to implement these kinds of actions. I’m proud that the Region of the Americas is taking the lead in the Decade of Action on Nutrition, and PAHO and WHO are ready to help you implement these commitments,” said Dr Etienne.

In April 2016, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2016–2025 the Decade of Action on Nutrition. Led by WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Nutrition Decade is a framework for making commitments, tracking progress, and ensuring mutual accountability in line with global nutrition targets2.

The Decade calls for policy action across six key areas:

  • creating sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets;
  • providing social protection and nutrition-related education for all;
  • aligning health systems to nutrition needs, and providing universal coverage of essential nutrition interventions;
  • ensuring that trade and investment policies improve nutrition;
  • building safe and supportive environments for nutrition at all ages; and
  • strengthening and promoting nutrition governance and accountability.

1 SMART = specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

2 World Health Assembly global nutrition targets to be achieved by 2025: 1) 40% reduction in the number of children under 5 who are stunted; 2) 50% reduction in the number of women of reproductive age with anaemia; 3) 30% reduction in the number of infants with low-birth-weight; 4) no increase in childhood overweight prevalence; 5) increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months to at least 50% of infants; and 6) reduce and maintain the proportion of children who are wasted to less than 5%. Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) diet-related noncommunicable disease targets to be achieved by 2025: 1) reduce population salt intake by 30%; and 2) halt the increase in obesity prevalence in adolescents and adults. Relevant Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030: SDG 2 end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; and SDG 3 ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.