Q: Surveys show that the Chinese people largely enjoy improved nutrition and health, while at the same time, there is an increasing number of people suffering from "affluenza." What's the reason behind this? And what will the government do to help optimize people's dietary patterns and enhance their health?
A: Nutrition and health status is an important indicator reflecting a country or a region's economic and social development, health-care level and the quality of its people. The past 10 years have witnessed a prominent improvement in the dietary pattern and nutrition of China's urban and rural residents. The consumption of high-quality protein and foods from animal sources as meat, eggs and poultry is increasing, incidences of malnutrition and nutritional deficiency have been declining, and the dietary pattern of rural people is changing tremendously.
Despite the improvements, poor nutrition and health problems remain serious. While nutritional deficiency still exits, consuming an excessive amount of meat, oils and fats and not enough cereal has given rise to the occurrence of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes and abnormal blood fat levels caused by overweight or obesity. Moreover, insufficient intake of calcium, iron, vitamin A and other nutrients is a common problem of urban and rural residents, as are changes in dietary patterns, lifestyle and disease spectrum. All this indicates that China is facing the dual challenges of nutritional deficiency and nutritional imbalance, making it a top priority for the country to guide its people to optimize their dietary patterns and to control chronic diseases.
For this purpose, work will be done through policy support, market guidance and public education.
In policy support, China will put forth relevant laws and regulations and integrate the improvement of people's nutrition and health into the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) for national development.
Market guidance involves enhancing scientific guidance to the agricultural production, food processing and manufacturing of food additives, to provide people with more foods with rational nutrients.
In public education, government departments will join hands with media and social organizations to popularize health-related knowledge, helping people foster a rational and scientific dietary habit and awareness of health.
In addition, plans are being made for the prevention and control of chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Some health-care projects have been put into practice in some urban communities, with satisfactory results.
China now is at a critical junction where if we fail to carry out timely scientific guidance, control and prevention of chronic diseases, we will follow the same old disastrous roads as other countries.