Globally, one in five deaths is linked to poor nutrition. ImagineLaw, a public interest law organization, in partnership with the Quezon City Local Government, has been awarded a grant to reduce preventable deaths by promoting healthy food options in Quezon City.

Resolve to Save Lives, a multi-million campaign funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gates Philanthropy Partners is funded with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is housed at Vital Strategies, a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Vital Strategies works with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Their goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.

With support from Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, the project will address dietary risk factors, including high salt and sugar intake and low consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, by supporting the Quezon City Local Government to develop and implement a model policy that requires food purchased by local governments to meet nutritional standards. The policy will cover food served at public facilities including day care centers, drug rehabilitation centers, hospitals and jails, and during disaster relief.

Mary Grace Anne Rosales-Sto. Domingo, Project Manager at ImagineLaw said that low-to-middle economies like the Philippines where the consumption of energy-dense nutrient-poor processed food is prevalent, strong policies promoting healthy food intake and healthy diet behavior positively impact the community significantly.

Mayor Joy Belmonte said that she believes this collaboration will be able to raise the quality of life and improve the overall health of Quezon City residents, by setting nutritional standards for food served and sold in public institutions.

Refined carbohydrates are common meal staples in the Philippines; average salt intake is twice the daily recommended amount and fruit and vegetable consumption is lower than recommended. A diet high in sodium, refined carbohydrates and fat, and low in fruits and vegetables can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the Philippines.

Chronic health conditions linked to poor diet, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, can also increase risk of severe COVID-19. Eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet can create stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases.

Dr. Laura Cobb, Director of Nutrition Policy and Surveillance at Resolve to Save Lives stresses that dietary risk factors are a major driver of preventable noncommunicable diseases, including heart disease.

She adds that governments can save lives—and money—by only buying, serving, and selling food and beverages that promote a healthy diet. By supporting local governments to keep junk food—including sugar-sweetened beverages and salty snacks—out of schools and other public facilities, ImagineLaw’s work in collaboration with the Quezon City Local Government will make health choices easier and protect the health of the people in the Philippines.

Around the world, millions of meals are consumed each day in government-owned settings. By setting nutritional standards through healthy public food procurement policies, which regulate the food served or sold by government-owned entities, governments can make healthy food the default option on a large scale. Nutritional standards for foods served in government settings have been shown to increase demand for healthier food and can reduce health care costs and productivity losses associated with malnutrition and diet-related noncommunicable diseases.

Resolve to Save Lives also awarded grants to two other organizations working to improve nutritional standards in public procurement policy: Togo Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene, Dhulikhel Hospital, Kathmandu University Hospital in Nepal. To find out more visit: https://www.resolvetosavelives.org or Twitter @ResolveTSL and www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.