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Posted Mon, Jul 24, 2023 7:08 AM

NESG Holds Webinar on Workforce Nutrition for Improved Health and Well-being

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), in collaboration with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and eHealth Africa, on Thursday, 20th July 2023, held a webinar with the theme "Enforcing Workforce Nutrition Compliance for Improved Health and Well-being in the Nigerian Workplace." 

While setting the tone for the discussions, a food systems and nutrition specialist, Mrs Dolapo Enejoh, said that Food is fundamental for health and that globally, dietary risk factors are estimated to cause 11 million deaths and the loss of 255 million years (disability-adjusted life-years) due to ill-health, disability, or early death - annually. She noted that the negative impact of poor nutrition, which manifests itself in conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, was heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and prevailing situations have further resulted in tremendous, multifaceted economic implications. Poor diet leads to numerous chronic diseases, resulting in disability and premature death. She revealed that workforce nutrition can help improve the health and well-being of the populace and further boost economic productivity.

While delivering a presentation on "Enforcing Workforce Nutrition Compliance for Improved Health and Well-being in the Nigerian Workplace," the Global Programme Lead Workforce Nutrition at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Dr Barbel Weiligmann, said that workforce nutrition is central to employee well-being as it focuses on the social, mental, health and safety increased focus and reduced accidents, physical or improved health and nutritional status and financial well-being reducing absenteeism and employees have higher work capacity and higher income.

Dr Weiligmann also noted that nutrition education, healthy Food at work, nutrition-focused health checks, and breastfeeding support are particularly relevant in female-dominated sectors, which help with increased productivity, and are the four pillars of workforce nutrition. She noted that the benefits of workforce nutrition include staff turnover and satisfaction, worksite profitability and enhanced nutrition, health and well-being of employees. She further stated that corporate organisations and small and medium-scale enterprises have much to gain by adopting workforce nutrition as it can help Improve brand equity and strengthen workplace cohesion.

The Dean of the College of Food Science and Human Ecology, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB) and President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Professor Wasiu Afolabi, said that currently, the public sector has an absence of workforce nutrition programs and that certain members of the organised private sector, particularly the multinationals and small and medium scale enterprises have incorporated certain aspects of workforce nutrition. "A significant proportion of the Nigerian workforce have challenges of inadequate food intakes, unhealthy diet and low intake of fruits and vegetables. Some organisations have a robust plan where one or two meals are served daily, free of charge or at subsidised rates. However, there is a need for workforce nutrition to be adopted by both the public and private sectors to reduce the problems of obesity and overweight that brings up the risk of metabolic diseases which leads to fatigue, absenteeism and increased head costs," he stated.

Furthermore, Professor Afolabi reiterated the need to build a robust policy for workforce nutrition, noting that nutritionists have a considerable role to play in ensuring nutrition compliance through education and capacity building. He further stated the need for collaboration between stakeholders to develop critical policies and targeted training on health and nutrition for the workforce and the general public.

In her remarks, the Deputy Director (Programmes) of New Nigeria Foundation, Mrs Olubunmi Olatunde, stated that there are various ways to promote nutrition compliance, including education and awareness creation. She noted that training programs for staff, use of online courses and resources, and participation in webinars, including newsletters, emails and other communication channels for disseminating nutrition information, can help ensure compliance with set guidelines. "Top management must demonstrate commitment to nutrition compliance by conducting surveys, using scorecards to monitor progress, focus group discussions and suggestion boxes where people can anonymously drop their ideas. This will encourage staff members to have a sense of ownership to enhance nutrition communication in the workplace," she stated.

Mrs Olatunde further reiterated the benefits associated with enforcing workforce nutrition compliance, including improved job satisfaction, increased productivity, less absenteeism, and reduced medical bills for individuals, groups and the nation at large, noting the importance of recognising diversity and inclusion in workforce nutrition policies.

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