> Charity China
Coca-Cola, MOH tout 'Keeping Healthy Weight'
By Bao Wanxian (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-05-18 08:06

As a mother, 36-year-old Dong Yizhen has long been proud of the good nutrition she has provided to her 8-year-old son. However, a recent health examination showing the boy was overweight and at risk of diabetes led the mother to feelings of deep confusion.

"To ensure a strong body, I give my son abundant nutrition, protein diets everyday. But I don't know what happened to him," Dong said. She added that in order to ensure a good educational environment for the boy, she never ordered him to do any housework.

Recently, Dong got her answer from doctors. As living standards have developed, people have enjoyed a superabundance of protein and fat, and a corresponding lack of exercise has made the number of adiposis sufferers (or those with excessive weight problems) increase.

To help alleviate this problem, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has worked to initiate a healthcare education program that encourages Chinese people to stay active and keep their weight down. This program is supported as a public-private partnership sponsored by Coca-Cola.

This year's "Keeping Healthy Weight" program follows the MOH's "China Health Communication Award", which launched in 2005, for spreading disease control and health knowledge across the country.

"After successfully organizing the program in the past three years, we can see remarkable achievement in the dropping incidence of chronic diseases among Chinese people," said Kong Lingzhi, deputy director of the disease prevention and control bureau of the Health Ministry.

However, Kong said in the past, the program only paid attention to disease controlling works.

According to Li Keji, professor of Peking University's Public Health School, the Chinese healthcare industry is now entering a new stage, which requires professionals to explore more preventive measures that can work for the Chinese people.

"So driven by the fast-growing number of overweight people in the country, from this year, we will turn to encouraging healthy lifestyles across the country," Li told China Business Weekly.

More noticeable, thanks to the newly approved national healthcare reform plan, in which healthcare education will play a significant part in public medical services, there will be increasing public demand for professional healthcare education and grassroots-level medical training in coming years, said MOH spokesman Mao Qun'an.

He added that this year's "Keeping Healthy Weight" program is expected to play a major role.

According to Kong, in the following year, MOH will organize experts to provide professional healthcare education trainings to health beat media across the nation, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou of Zhejiang province, and their neighboring regions will receive the program's initial focus.

Ma Guansheng, professor at the Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said: "The target of promoting a healthier lifestyle is seen to be general and inaccessible, but in China, it is necessary to implement it as soon as possible."

According to Ma, overweight people, or adiposis sufferers, are at high risk of many other diseases and premature death, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Statistics from MOH show that in 2002, over 5.6 percent of Chinese citizens suffered from adiposis diseases, and another 17.6 percent were overweight, which increased 80.6 percent and 38.6 percent respectively from the statistics in 1992.

A report from MOH also said the fast-increasing number of adiposis sufferers and overweight people is mostly due to unhealthy lifestyles, such as superabundance of protein and fat, and lack of exercise.

Ma said only with an in-depth understanding of the impact of unhealthy lifestyles can adiposis be better controlled in the future.

"Along with the spreading of healthcare knowledge, it is also necessary to effectively organize more sports activities among the public," said Brenda Lee, vice president of Coca-Cola China.

Along with Coca-Cola's business expansion in the Chinese market came its specialized skills in pushing a healthy lifestyle to Chinese people.

With the theme of Live Positively, since September 2006, Coca-Cola has been implementing the Happy Playtime program in over 1,300 primary schools from 20 provinces across the country, which inspired more than 1.3 million students ages 6-12 to participate.

Besides designing diversified sports activities for pupils, Coca-Cola also provided professional training for teachers and students to help deliver advanced nutrition knowledge.

"So this year, Coke's participation in MOH's healthcare promotion program will help us deliver our experiences on launching sport activities to a larger range of Chinese people," Lee added.

In addition, Coca-Cola recently donated 80 million yuan to China Youth Development Federation for school rebuilding after the earthquake in Sichuan.

"We will continue to expand the Happy Playtime to more Project Hope Schools," according to Lee.

"We are also glad to see more enterprises contribute their forces into the healthcare works in recent years," Kong said.

She added that in the past, only professional healthcare-related companies participated in health promotion works. But now, it is easy to see food makers such as Coca-Cola, and Nestle, household product makers such as P&G, and even financing and manufacturing companies actively take part in this area.

"Together with the expansion of the newly approved national healthcare reform, it is a golden opportunity for us to promote a higher level of healthcare education works in China," Kong said.

(China Daily 05/18/2009 page10)