Gabriela Allard
President
Mexican Diabetes Association
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View from the Top

Health is Everyone's Responsibility

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 13:58

Q: What has “Restaurantes por la Salud” and “Feel Healthy” achieved in the last year?

A: This program has been very successful with 22 restaurants participating. We want to offer healthy food options for people and we want this to become a prevalent and massive initiative such as smoke-free spaces. When a restaurant decides to participate we provide the necessary guidance to create healthy options on the menu. There are many people who believe that healthy food is not delicious and we want to let them know this is not true. We are not against any type of food but we want people to learn healthy eating and have a balanced diet. There are no good or bad foods and everything depends on people’s lifestyle and habits. Chefs are also invited to join these restaurants and learn to cook healthy food. “Feel Healthy” has been successful with effective patient adherence to the exercise programs that are tailored according to their condition. We are also working with Tonalli support association in which we take children to nutritional camps and teach them how to inject themselves with insulin and count their carbohydrate intake.

Q: What has been the reaction to the Mexican Diabetes Association Guarantee Stamp from the industry?

A: Responsible consumption and production has also reached the industry. There are some pharmacies interested in selling products that are acceptable for diabetics and our stamp guarantees the use of healthy ingredients. Additives, such as sweeteners, are under continuous scrutiny and there is a lot of updated information about their safety and health impacts. We are interested in making people read labels and buy acceptable products. A validated product is not necessarily a carbohydrate free product but a balanced one.

Q: To what extent do you think taxation on sugary beverages contributes to improving the diabetes crisis in the country?

A: I think it has been an excellent initiative. Contrapeso is a network of associations coordinated by the Director of Fundación Mídete. In Mexico there are millions of people hydrating with soft drinks. We are not against the beverage industry but we are pushing for these people to have access to water in their communities and schools. This measure has raised awareness on the importance of drinking water, and we are pushing for resource allocation from these taxes focused on improving access to water.

Q: Some experts think healthcare is not a priority in the government’s agenda. What are your thoughts on this?

A: I believe it is the exact opposite and that many public offices are working to improve the population’s health. But it is not that easy and we should not leave the entire responsibility to the government. We should team up with the public sector and they should develop new communication channels through which they can convey recent advances in healthcare promotion. There are a lot of initiatives of which people are not aware. Changes cannot be made overnight It can take two or three generations to see actual changes in the population. Chronic diseases can become an unbearable burden for society and the healthcare system. The productivity of companies is also impacted by chronic diseases so we need to make people realize the importance of prevention. In the past, diabetes type 2 was a disease seen in people over 45 years old and today there are children suffering from it, and Mexico is one of the countries with the highest levels of children obesity in the world. I think people have the power to decide what to eat but much more effort is needed to get the right message across.

Q: What is your final message to our readers?

A: We all should be involved in promoting healthcare and raising awareness. We should all be responsible for preventing obesity and diabetes on an individual basis, and we cannot leave the full duty to the government and schools. Every person has to be completely in charge of their own health.