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Malnutrition has been one of the major health problems which affects two of every ten children, under five years old, in Central American countries. During recent years, in addition to malnutrition problems, almost all Central American countries have reported an increase in the incidence of chronic illness such as diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and some cancers. This tendency has been associated with the increase of overweight and obesity among the adult population, especially among women. Both poor nutrition and over nutrition constitute high priority health problems, which need to be addressed through comprehensive health promotion programs that includes a strong component of nutrition educaiton.

The strategies and actions to promote appropriate diets and healthy lifestyles, that emanated from the last International Conference on Nutrition (FAO 1992), includes:

- nutrition education and dietary guidance for the general public

- training of professionals in health care, agriculture extension and related services

- development of food-services guidelines

- involvement of consumer groups and the food industry

- ensuring food quality and safety

- monitoring and evaluating national food and nutrition situations

- encouraging the availability of the variety of foods needed to meet consumer demand

To accomplish these recommendations many sectors need to take an active role in the promotion of healthy habits. The public sector, including health professionals can work to educate the general public about diet and health. The food industry plays an essential role by responding to consumer demand to produce and market the variety of foods needed for a healthy diet. Both the formal and non-formal education system must play a central role, incorporating nutrition into education in general, and within the context of local culture. In addition to school systems, the health and agriculture sector, public information channels, unions, youth groups and community leaders should take an active role in education and promotion of nutrition healthy lifestyles (FAO 1992).

I believe that the first step, to carry out such a comprehensive nutrition promotion strategy should be the development of dietary guidelines, as the basis of information that every sector should use as they develop their own educational programs, directed to different populations, applying different educational strategies.

The purpose of this document is to present a model of dietary guidelines and graphic design to promote health and nutrition in Central American Countries, as well as a proposal to implement these dietary guidelines. To develop the model of dietary guidelines, experiences from different countries, such as the United States, Mexico and Venezuela were reviewed and adapted. Graphic designs from fourteen countries were reviewed.

The content of this document is presented in four sections: the first one presents a bibliographic review of dietary guidelines development in the United States and Latin American countries. The second demonstrates the adaptation and application of these concepts to the development of the Guatemalan dietary guidelines and graphic design. The third section introduces a bibliographic review of the recommendations to implement dietary guidelines in the United States, as well as my suggestion to develop and implement dietary guidelines in Central American countries. In the last section I present some ideas about the application of non-formal education strategies, to adapt the dietary guidelines at community level.

This document will be translated into Spanish, and will be reviewed by a team of nutritionists, communicators and educators from the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama. After that, this document will be disseminated to other Latin American countries and could be used as the basis to develop dietary guidelines in Latin American countries.



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