The latest World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates indicate that 3.5 million people worldwide would die annually from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) such as heart disease, strokes, obesity, diabetes and cancers.
According to the organisation, it was unfortunate that people in poor countries were fast getting those diseases and at earlier ages.
Professor Anna Lartey, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Ghana, Legon, who said this at the on-going 60th New Year School attributed the causes of those diseases to unhealthy diets, reduced physical activity, smoking and intake of alcohol.
This year's New Year School under the theme: “Lifelong Learning and Accelerated National Development brought together over 500 participants across the country to deliberate on issues affecting the country and make recommendations to promote good governance.
She regretted that most people had developed the taste for foods high in salt, fat, sugar, which were not good for their health.
Prof. Lartey said a good diet should have components of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins, minerals, water and some amount of fats.
“We must develop the habit of adding more fruits and vegetables to our meal. The fruits and vegetables should form 50 per cent of the food we eat,” she added.
She said one must eat variety of foods – starchy foods, protein foods, fruits, vegetables and drink plenty water everyday.
“You must include whole grains, vegetables and fruits in your daily diets and try to reduce the fat content,” she said.
She advocated for boiled or baked foods, trimming off all visible fats from meat products and using little oil in cooking to ensure a healthy living, adding that, “you are what you eat and may your food be your medicine and your medicine your food”.
Ms. Roeyah Adha, Regenerative Health and a Nutritionist from Israel, said water was very important in the human's body and recommended that taking between four to six sachets of water daily would enhance free bowls and would keep the body in good shape.
She said the concept of regenerative health and nutrition was the attainment of optimal physical and mental well-being through the adoption of holistic healthy lifestyle that strengthen and renew the body and mind and prevent diseases.
Ms. Adha, who is currently working on a pilot project with the Ministry of Health (MOH), said the concept advocated for five basic things - taking of water, fruits and vegetable, exercising, resting and environmental cleanliness as the vessel through which to attain total healthy lifestyle.
She therefore called for institutional direction, plans and implementation of the programme at the regional, districts and sub-district levels and in all communities throughout the country.
Speaking on Non-Communicable Diseases and Healthy Living, Mr Kofi Edusei of MOH said about 70 per cent of non-communicable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and Typhoid were on the increase.
He said pregnancy related, hypertension, diabetes and cancers formed about 33 per cent of disease burden whiles HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country was between 2.3 and 2.5.
He mentioned obesity, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, physical inactivity, poor environmental sanitation and poverty as some of the causes leading to the increase of non-communicable diseases and cautioned the public to live a healthy lifestyle.
On the topic, "Education for Healthy Living: Producing Healthy Food
for a Healthy Nation," Mr. Jack Vasper Suglo, Director, Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, said one-third of African countries had serious problems with nutrition.
He said 200 million people were undernourished in Africa, thus living
below the recommended minimum calories intake level of 2,100, which was an increase of 20 percent since 1990.
Mr. Suglo said a healthy food production system, which involved a value chain approach, was relevant in addressing the food and nutrition security challenges in the African continent.
He maintained that food and nutrition insecurity had become major threats to the health of the people in many African countries, including Ghana, saying assuring food security, with availability of and access to food, and assuring nutrition security, where access to good quality food was coupled with adequate health was urgent.
He related how lack of adequate foods, lack of adequate health services, inadequate caring practices and an unsanitary environment, combine to make up nutrition insecurity which was undermining development in Africa.
Mr Suglo however, stated that, while food security involved both incomes from production of agricultural produce, nutrition security on the other hand was greatly dependant on education, health, hygiene and on sanitation conditions, "therefore the two can be said to be closely interrelated and both are components of poverty."
He said due to malnutrition, most children between the ages of zero to one year were stunted, a situation, which was more pronounced in countries in conflict situations where over 50 percent of the people were undernourished.
He noted that a good measure of a nation's development could also be based on access to quality food, health care and sanitary environment, thus stunting was a good indicator of a nation's socio-economic development.
"That is why stunting is used as an outcome indicator in poverty reduction strategy papers," he said.
Mr Suglo said for Ghana to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the need to increase agricultural productivity in order to reduce poverty and ensure food and nutrition security was paramount.
"If we invest in education but the children go to school malnourished, what chance do they have. If they try to increase agricultural productivity but the farmers are malnourished and have lower productivity capacity, what chance do they have?" he asked.
He suggested the need to address the vicious circle of malnutrition, saying this required a lifelong learning solution and blamed the compounded challenges of poverty in Africa, especially in the Sub-Saharan region to conflicts, the absence of effective central governments, environmental factors like droughts and floods, economic factors, disease burden and lack of political will and commitments.
He lamented that though African Heads in the Maputo Declaration 2003 committed themselves to ensuring an increase in their budgetary allocations to agriculture to 10 percent in the next five years, most of them had failed to implement the act due to lack of political will and commitment.
"Also a commitment to address issues of governance within the agricultural sector had also not materialized in most African countries," he said and called on governments to make agriculture a priority in its national planning processes and be consistent and predictable.
"We must exploit our comprehensive advantage and develop those products that would help the population achieve the highest points of their creative and productive abilities, while at the same time improving their conditions of living.
Mr Suglo also called for the development and sustenance of a
strategy for maintaining soil and water since relaying on rain-fed agriculture alone would simply not work for the continent.
He called for the development of appropriate technology, including biotechnology, improved seeds, chemicals, mechanical and electronic input to
the management of farms.