ISLAMABAD: In a bid to tackle Pakistan’s rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) stemming from unhealthy foods, a training workshop was held for journalists titled “Understanding TFAs, Policy, Human Health, and Reporting.”
The event, organized by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) with support from the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), aimed to equip journalists with knowledge to address the critical issue of trans fatty acids (TFAs) in food.
Experts, including Mr. Munawar Hussain from GHAI, Dr. Khawja Masood, National Coordinator of the Food Fortification Alliance, Mr. Zeeshan Haider, and Mr. Waqar Bhatti, shared alarming statistics about NCDs in Pakistan. These diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and diabetes, are exacerbated by unhealthy food and beverage consumption. A 2016 WHO study revealed that six out of ten deaths in Pakistan result from NCDs, and the country has the third-highest burden of type 2 diabetes globally.
Inaugural session led by the esteemed Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed (@mqur2001). Reminding us that our health is profoundly influenced by our dietary choices and consumption habits. TFAs wield a substantial impact on this equation. #EliminateTFAs #BanPHO pic.twitter.com/ZwB8HJOaCw
— CPDI Pakistan (@cpdi_pakistan) August 30, 2023
Intake of TFAs in Food in Pakistan
The workshop highlighted the substantial intake of TFAs in Pakistan’s food, with the country’s TFA intake ranking second-highest in the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region. These industrially produced trans-fatty acids (iTFAs) are linked to the increased incidence of NCDs. In response, the Government of Pakistan has taken steps to regulate certain types of unhealthy food, such as limiting TFAs to 2g per 100g of fat in specific products.
More than 20 journalists from cities including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, and Lahore attended the workshop. They were educated not only about health-related challenges and dietary risks but also about effective reporting strategies to address these issues. Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director of CPDI, stressed the importance of media, government, and civil society collaboration to raise public awareness and enforce food supply standards. Mr. Afshaar Iqbal from PYCA highlighted the need for local languages to effectively communicate messages about TFA-free food and good health.
Mr. Zaigham Khan concluded the workshop by highlighting the journalists’ role in influencing public attitudes and policies. He emphasized their potential as checks on corporate greed and urged them to remain vigilant about non-communicable diseases and prevention methods.