Malta launches food and nutrition policy and action plan

DOI Malta/Omar Camilleri

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe discussed a range of health issues during her visit to Malta on 15-16 December 2014.

Dietary factors are the single most important risk factors for the burden of disease in all 53 Member States in the WHO European Region. In Malta, levels of obesity among school-age children are a particular concern.

On 16 December 2014, as part of her two-day visit to Malta, Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, addressed participants in the launch of the Food and Nutrition Policy and Action Plan for Malta.

“Malta is in the driving seat when it comes to addressing issues of diet-related diseases, and always at the forefront of these discussions in the European context. It is the first country in the WHO European Region to renew its food and nutrition policy, inspired by the European Food and Nutrition Action Plan and based on the regional policy framework, Health 2020. I would like to congratulate you for that,” Ms Jakab said.

The new Action Plan addresses the negative impact of unhealthy diets and other risk factors in Malta through concrete action on:

  • reducing overall salt and fat consumption;
  • eliminating trans fats;
  • using price policies to promote healthier foods and reduce unhealthy products;
  • restricting the marketing of food to children; and
  • improving monitoring and surveillance mechanisms.

Mr Chris Fearne, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, also took part in the launch. 

Highlights of the visit to Malta

During her visit, the Regional Director described the importance of a whole-of-society approach in tackling noncommunicable diseases to civil-society groups and health professionals. She also met with all the staff of the health secretariat, where she outlined WHO’s history of strong collaboration with the Government of Malta, the highlights of which she identified as health-system development, migrant health and WHO/Europe’s small countries project during a press conference.

Malta’s work on migrant health was one of the issues discussed during the Regional Director’s meeting with Dr George Vella, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta. WHO and the Maltese Government recently worked together to assess the health sector’s capacity to manage the arrival of large numbers of migrants, and are now cooperating to include a migrant health component into the country’s national disaster contingency plan.

During a meeting with Professor Edward Scicluna, Minister for Finance of Malta, the Regional Director underlined the importance of investing in primary health care, disease prevention and health promotion, to avoid the long-term drain on resources of managing chronic diseases.

In discussions with the Regional Director, Mr Godfrey Farrugia, chairperson of the Maltese Parliament’s diabetes working group, explained the work done to develop a policy on diabetes, with an emphasis on mobile health and empowering patients.

A range of issues – from the Ebola crisis and response, and migrant health to priorities for Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017 – were covered at a meeting between the Regional Director and the Parliamentary Secretary for Health.