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Dissemination of Heartfile’s Research “Assessment of Transfats in Pakistan’s Food Chain”

Heartfile, a leading health think tank NGO, organized a dissemination event on 20th March 2024, at the Ramada Hotel in Islamabad to present the findings of their collaborative research project titled “Assessment of Transfats in Pakistan’s Food Chain,” conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Health. The study focused on evaluating the contents of trans fat – a diet-based risk factor associated with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the industrially produced fat and oil products as well as potential trans rich foods.
Prominent figures from various sectors, including government representatives and health experts from across Pakistan, gathered to participate in this significant event.
Dr. Khawaja Masuood Ahmed, National Coordinator Nutrition MONHSRC, provided a comprehensive overview of the study’s rationale and detailed the collaborative efforts between the Ministry, WHO, and Heartfile in developing the REPLACE package. Dr. Ahmed also highlighted the challenges faced in reducing trans fats in food products to 2%, citing limited testing capacity as a significant hurdle. Additionally, he emphasized the impact of sugar as a dietary risk factor and noted the effectiveness of increased sugar taxes in reducing product sales. Dr. Ahmed mentioned the readiness of the National Action Plan for dietary risk factors for dissemination.
Mr. Omer Mukhtar Tarar from PCSIR shared key findings from the research titled “Assessment of Trans Fats in Pakistan’s Food Chain,” contributing valuable insights to the discussion.
During the session, prominent figures in trans fat control and public health advocacy suggested incorporating samples from utility store products in future research and advocated for broader outreach efforts to promote healthier alternatives during Ramadan. Collaboration for effective policy enforcement and behavior change was stressed, highlighting challenges such as limited testing labs for trans fats and the importance of maintaining testing validity while controlling costs. Proactive measures were shared regarding testing food products, and a coordinated advocacy approach on social media was recommended for impactful campaigns. Comprehensive regulation of all fat types and the adoption of WHO standards for trans fatty acids in all foods was agreed amongst all stakeholders. Additionally, a rapid and cost-effective method for measuring trans fats using FTIR spectroscopy was introduced, showcasing its accessibility and potential impact across different regions. It was discussed that its feasibility in Pakistan needs to be explored further.
Dr. Saba Amjad concluded the session by expressing gratitude for the collaboration.
The insights and recommendations shared during this gathering are expected to pave the way for informed policy decisions and collaborative efforts towards promoting healthier dietary practices in Pakistan.

Launch of Heartfile’s Report on status of Tobacco Control Laws Monitoring Report

Heartfile, convened a dissemination event at Margala Hotel Islamabad to disseminate their findings on Status of Tobacco Control Laws (TCLs) compliance in 10 districts of Pakistan. The report aims at assessing the compliance of TCLs with respect to Pakistan’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) commitments and attempts to identify gaps and challenges in TCLs monitoring framework alongside recommendations on how to overcome these gaps.
Prominent figures from various sectors, including government officials, health and tobacco control experts and civil society representatives from all over Pakistan graced the event.

Report can be Accessed Here

Launch of Heartfile’s Reports on Smokeless Tobacco and New Nicotine Products.

February 06, 2024: Heartfile convened a dissemination event at Serena Hotel Islamabad to unveil their recently generated evidence on Smokeless Tobacco (SLT) and Tobacco and New Nicotine Products (TNNPs) in Pakistan. Eminent parliamentarians Senator Fawzia Arshad and Senator Seemee Ezdi graced the event. It also gathered prominent figures from various sectors, including government officials, health and tobacco control experts and civil society representatives from all over Pakistan.

Access Press Release from this link.
Heartfile TNNPs Final Report
Heartfile SLTs Final Report
TNNPs Policy Brief

Meeting of Technical Advocacy and Advisory Group (TAAG)

19 January 2024. The TFA Technical Advocacy and Advisory Group (TAAG) meeting for the first quarter of 2024 was held at the Nutrition Division of National Institute of Health. The main aim of the meeting was to assess feedback on the Trans-fat chemical analysis report and the policy dossier proposing a 2% limit on iTFAs in all foods, and to discuss the way forward in terms of regulatory actions, advocacy strategies, and capacity building initiatives related to iTFA elimination. Additionally, the meeting focused on strategizing regulatory frameworks, advocating for policy changes, and planning advocacy activities such as webinars and workshops to raise awareness and garner support for iTFA limits in all food categories.

Senator Sania Nishtar’s Emergency Treatment Bill

December 21, 2023: Senator Sania Nishtar’s Emergency Treatment Bill was presented in the Senate Standing Committee on Health.
In her tweet, Senator Sania Nishtar thanked Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Health for their bipartisan support and for unanimously approving her Bill, which mandates free emergency medical treatment for all in public hospitals in the Islamabad capital territory. “Free emergency medical treatment is not only a moral imperative but also a matter of rights, with reference to the state-peoples’ relationship” she wrote.

Dr. Saba Amjad Highlights Urgent Need for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Policies at the 13th International Public Health Conference

Islamabad: Heartfile, in collaboration with Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) and Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), participated at the 13th International Public Health Conference held at HSA Islamabad. The event, featuring a scientific session titled “Tackling Non-Communicable Disease Risk Factors” focused on crucial health issues in Pakistan, brought together a panel of experts from government bodies, civil society organizations, and advocacy groups.

Also together with aforementioned partners, Heartfile setup and maintained presence at a stall inside the event venue for increasing networking and the visibility of Heartfile’s past and present work on NCDs alongside partners’ published materials. Heartfile’s documentary films on ,iTFAs, ENDS and ONPs were screened repeatedly.

Heartfile team actively participated in the scientific session. The session explored both Dietary Risk Factors, including industrially produced trans-fatty acids (iTFAs) and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), and non-Dietary Risk Factor of Tobacco use.
In his keynote address, Dr. Khawaja Masuood Ahmed, National Coordinator for Nutrition & National Fortification Alliance of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination, provided valuable insights into the milestones achieved and challenges faced in Pakistan’s battle against NCDs and appreciated Heartfile’s valuable contributions to the process referring to Heartfile’s iTFA Situational Analysis in Pakistan and National Action Pan for NCDs (NAP-NCD)  for adopting global best practices with regards to iTFAs.

Mr Munawar Hussain, the country coordinator for GHAI in Pakistan, highlighted the NCD dietary risk factor of excessive sugar intake in his talk and demonstrated its linkages with the SSB industry and its products. Mr Munawar presented international best practices at length and the developments thereof particularly the of Front of Pack Labelling (FOPL) policies and standards adopted by various countries.

Mr Sanaullah Ghumman, General Secretary of PANAH gave a detailed chronology of his organization’s direct interactions with parliamentarians to garner political support for NCD related regulations highlighting both the highs and lows of their struggle in this battle.

Dr. Saba Amjad and her team, in their presentation, focused on the non-dietary NCD risk factor of Tobacco. The discussion addressed critical challenges in this domain and presented the latest contextual evidence regarding emerging nicotine-based products, including Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs), and Oral Nicotine Pouches (ONPs) in Pakistan. Their presentation also highlighted the existing gaps in Pakistan’s regulatory framework to address these products and drew from international experiences in combating this emerging threat. Dr. Amjad concluded her address by proposing key policy recommendations and outlining a strategic way forward to effectively tackle the challenges posed by tobacco and related emerging products.

In her closing remarks the chair of the Scientific session Dr Afshan Tahseen Vice president PANAH summed up the discussion and appreciated the work of all organizations. She seconded the speakers’ opinions & policy recommendations and vowed to continue the advocacy work.

Overall, this session provided a pivotal platform for informed discussions, fostering collaboration between experts and stakeholders to strengthen the nation’s efforts in curbing the adverse impact of tobacco on public health and the dietary risk factor of iTFAs and SSBs.

Senator Sania’s Constitutional Amendment Bills

December 16: 2023: During the recent meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice there was support from all parties for two of Senator Sania’s constitutional amendment Bills, aimed at amending articles 140A and 84 of the Constitution. The former is aimed at providing a basic constitutional framework to achieve the objective of devolution from the provincial to local level, whereas the latter is meant to rectify the process of approving supplementary budget grants.

ATOM 23 Summit in Singapore

December 4, 2023: Senator Sania Nishtar virtually participated in the panel titled “Political & Economic Decisions Vs Costs of Health & Wellbeing” during the Advanced Tomorrow 2023 Singapore Summit, which focused on ‘Health and Wellbeing of Tomorrow’ – Revolutionising Healthcare, Wellness and Longevity in 21st Century. The discourse was around the main political and economic issues and barriers affecting healthcare outcomes globally and in countries of the South. The panel was moderated by Joan Hoey, Editorial Director, The Democracy Index at the Economist Intelligence Unit. Panel participants included Philippe Aghion, Professor of Economics at The London School of Economics and Political Science; Martin Guzman, Professor of Economics, and Former Minister of Economy of Argentina; Pranjal Sharma, author of The Next New: Navigating the Fifth Industrial Revolution; and Manuel Muniz, Provost of IE University in Madrid, Spain & Dean of the School of Global and Public Affairs.

Last Mile Forum, Health Day, COP 28

December 3, 2023: Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar participated in the first ever health day observed during COP 28. She spoke on a panel titled “breaking silos on climate sensitive diseases” during Last Mile forum. She spoke about measures and mitigates that the health sector needs to put in place to address the climate challenge, stressing on the need for new institutional arrangements, preemptive planning, and climate resilient investments in PHC. In a tweet after the event, she stated “The impact of climate change on health and health systems is staggering and alarming, and we have seen this playing out in Pakistan during the 2022 floods. I made a threefold call to action: first, health must work more closely with disaster, humanitarian, and social protection institutional arrangements. Second, we must mandate learnings from disasters and institutionalize pre-emptive planning for resilience and third, disruptive solutions are possible at scale for which technologies must be mainstreamed iteratively in processes and systems”