Meeting population dietary goals in Scotland and Malta: shared challenges and opportunities for learning.
Masson, Lindsey F.
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MASSON, L.F. and COPPERSTONE, C. . Meeting population dietary goals in Scotland and Malta: shared challenges and opportunities for learning. Malta journal of health sciences [online], (accepted).
Scotland and Malta share a high prevalence of overweight and obesity: around two-thirds of adults are overweight (including obese), and one-third are obese. Reducing this burden of overweight and obesity is a priority for both Scottish and Maltese Governments, which involves setting dietary goals and monitoring the progress of the population to meeting those goals, and developing policies to improve health. This commentary summarises the progress of Scotland and Malta to meeting dietary goals, challenges to meeting the goals, and actions being taken. Whilst dietary guidelines are in place in both countries, Malta has yet to estimate average population dietary intakes and is awaiting results from its first national survey. In Scotland however, there are various well established dietary surveys which can be used to inform the development of policy, yet little progress towards the Scottish Dietary Goals has been seen between 2001 and 2015, and the prevalence of overweight and obesity has not changed since 2008. In order for dietary goals to be met, dietary guidelines need to be promoted, understood, and translated into changes in dietary behaviour. However, barriers to behaviour change need to be addressed, with research required to design long-term interventions that are successful and cost-effective in all population groups. Scotland can learn from Malta’s dietary guidelines which treat fruit and vegetables as two separate groups, provide serving size and consumption guidelines, and incorporate the positive message to use herbs and spices for flavour. Also, Malta can learn from the methodologies of established Scottish and UK surveys to create their own programme of dietary surveys. The sharing of experiences of researchers, policy makers and health promoters in these countries is therefore beneficial for tackling the current obesity epidemic and promoting a healthier future.