Last August 27, 2021, Healthcare Without Harm South-east Asia along with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food arranged a roundtable meeting entitled “Roundtable Meeting: Mapping Healthier Food Systems in South-east Asia”. As the title suggests—dealing with food systems—the event sought to spark a discussion that would lead to action plans addressing human, ecological, and animal health & well-being and unite the broadest range of entities in the region in addressing these concerns.
Participants from across the South-east Asia region included those coming from the healthcare sector, from doctors and nurses, to community health workers and members of health-based organizations. Groups representing farmers, food producers, and consumers were also present at the event.
In her opening statement HCWH Chair, Dr. Esperanza Cabral said “A meaningful focus on food work will help us achieve our overarching goal of environmentally and socially responsible healthcare” she also cited that a healthier food system means protecting public health from climate change, transforming the supply chain, and fostering leadership for environmental health. “At the end of this meeting, we hope you will come away with an increased understanding of the food and health situation in South-east Asia” Dr. Cabral added.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director, Yeb Sano, says “We are inspired to see that this global movement is growing, one with the appetite for a better way of eating and producing food” he also points out the need to radically transform food systems, the consumption and production of food, to better serve the interests of people and for the benefit of the environment. Ending his statement, Sano raises a call to action, “Together, today we are determined to change the future of food, the future of our health and the future of our planet. Let us get up, let us stand up and let the fever of our actions rise”.
Global Alliance for the Future of Food’s Patty Fong opened her statement with a brief orientation on the work the Alliance does “We are trying to shift the dominant paradigms globally. We do this through forging new insights, through convening, and through leveraging the work and activities of our partners and members on the ground”. She highlighted the relevance of analysing regional experiences from a global insight. Fong also gave a cursory background on what the future should look like for food systems.
Tasting the Future founder and director, Mark Driscoll gave a presentation on the global food and health situation, as well as in South-east Asia. “I think the COVID crisis has really shown a spotlight on food and health really like no other crisis, certainly in my living memory it has really revealed the fragility and vulnerability of our food systems to these sudden external shocks, and it's really highlighted the need, I believe, to transform our food system” says Driscoll who started his presentation discussing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the current food system. He also underlined that recovering from the pandemic engenders opportunities to reconstruct a food system that is supplemental to public health.
He also noted that ecological health predicates human health and well being, saying “Water, soil, biodiverse and rich forests, they all underpin human health and well being outcomes.”
Nearing the latter part of the meeting, Taiwan Vegetarian Nutrition Society President, Dr. Ming-lan Lin of the Dalin Tzu Chi General Hospital did his presentation entitled “Sustainable Initiatives of Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital: From Personal Health to Planetary Health” ventilating on the importance of a plant-based diet in effectuating better personal health. Dr. Lin, throughout his presentation, shared various practices that are helping them promote a plant-based diet among colleagues, peers, and patients. Dalin Tzu Chi has determined that cordial forms of promoting a plant-based diet, such as Meatless Mondays, appeared most effective.
Sessions were held to stimulate discussions on solutions and opportunities to transform food systems in South-east Asia. The conversations were filled with energetic sharings from the different sectors and representatives on innovations, programs, best practices and policy engagements that need to be scaled up and amplified in the region and beyond so that the people and the planet can truly benefit from a healthy and sustainable food system.
As the meeting’s overall moderator and a staunch Planetary Health advocate, Dr. Renzo Guinto, Chief Planetary Health Doctor of PH Lab, summed it all up with a call to action addressed to the participants citing the need for collaboration in facing a series of issues in food, health and environment. ###
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