Pirkko Mattila, Finland's Minister of Social Affairs and Health, gives an exclusive interview to People's Daily Online on Nov. 22, 2016. (Photo/People's Daily Online)
Pirkko Mattila, Finland's Minister of Social Affairs and Health, presented the country's experience coping with malnutrition and health promotion, telling People's Daily Online that she would consider cooperation with China on social affairs and health in the future.
At a seminar at the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion in Shanghai on Nov. 22, Mattila shared Finland's experience addressing malnutrition by changing the food system. The Finnish government’s measures are not limited to high-risk group, but instead target the whole population. The government’s "health in all policies" approach works across different sectors. For example, Finland has taken action to improve the sustainability of its food system by making changes toward a more plant-based diet, reducing meat consumption, offering nutrition recommendations and showing more support to local food sources.
It's notable that Finland began to provide free school meals in 1948. At that time, the country was not wealthy, and in fact faced serious malnutrition. The subsidized meals improved school attendance and supported families.
"New guidelines for schools and kindergartens will come out in 2017," noted Mattila.
With regards to the reformulation of foods, the Finnish government has cooperated with the food industry to promote low-fat dairy, low-salt bread and other healthier choices. Law has required since the 1980s that high-salt foods be given warning labels.
Pirkko Mattila, Finland's Minister of Social Affairs and Health, delivers a speech at a seminar on hunger at the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion in Shanghai on Nov. 22, 2016. (Photo/People's Daily Online)
Mattila advocates improving nutrition globally. She pointed out that Finland's new development policy emphasizes the rights of women and girls, and includes food security as well as better access to water.
"The establishment of a food system should prioritize the environment and human health. It is also a good opportunity for us to scale up our operations, improve nutrition and address all forms of malnutrition," she stated.
"This conference is a good starting point for cooperation, and we should consider what we can do," said Mattila, when asked about her plans to cooperate with China in the future.