The Institute of Leadership and Development (INSLA) has called on government to develop a National Healthy Diet Policy to reduce the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) on the national health delivery system.
It said the reduction of NCDs such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, mental and neurological disorders would help alleviate extreme poverty, inequality, improve the health and wellbeing of Ghanaians.
The call was made in a statement signed by Mr Benjamin Anabila, the Director of INSLA, and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Thursday.
It said NCDs are estimated to kill around 38 million people every year, accounting for 68 per cent of all deaths worldwide and would cause half of all global disability.
It said: 'Although the burden is universal, low - and middle-income countries will be hit the hardest, with over three quarters of all deaths occurring in these countries including Ghana.'
The statement said consequently, the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prioritized to reduce by one third premature mortality from NCDs through prevention and treatment by 2030.
'In Ghana, NCDs account for 31 per cent of disease burden and kill an estimated 86,200 persons in Ghana each year with 55.5 per cent of them aged less than 70 years. Cardiovascular diseases accounted for 8.9 per cent of institutional deaths. Analysis of institutional data in Ghana suggests that several NCDs have been increasing due to unhealthy eating and other factors,' it said.
The statement said significant global commitments, plans and programmes have provided enough justifications to develop a National Healthy Diet Policy (NHDP) to regulate the sugar, salt and fat content in drinks and food respectively.
They are 2011 Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, World Health Organisation (WHO) Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020, Global NCD Voluntary Targets, NCDs in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.
The statement said the government has domesticated the global commitments, plans and programmes and prioritized the preventions, control and management of NCDs.
The documents are the Ministry of Health Regenerative Health and Nutrition Unit 2006, Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) 2010-2017, National Health Police (NHP) 2007, National Health Sector Medium Term Development Plan and the Disease Control Strategy 2010-2014.
The statement said the growing disease burden on the national health system was enormous and there is the need for government to take the necessary preventive actions for the development and implementation of a comprehensive national policy on healthy diet so as to reduce the incidence of heart diseases, strokes and diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.
It said amongst the best global, national and the WHO recommended practices in the preventing and management of NCDs included the development and implementation of a comprehensive national framework to address unhealthy diet with specific focus on sugar, salt and fat.
'The WHO member countries including Ghana have voluntarily committed to contribute a 25 per cent relative reduction in the overall mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases, a 30 per cent relative reduction in mean population intake of salt/sodium, and halt the rise in diabetes and obesity and ensure that at least 50 per cent of eligible people receive drug therapy and counselling (including glycaemic control) to prevent heart attacks and strokes by 2015,' the statement said.
It said the national health diet policy should be proactive in addressing the above priority areas including nutrition labelling (3 colour label); nutrition education programme; diabetes screening; sales ban and restrictions; marketing, advertising and sponsorship ban and restrictions; fruit and vegetable subsidies; social marketing campaigns; child protection; taxation and tax measures, among others.
It said South Africa has taken bold steps in its 2017/18 budget to address diabetes and obesity and that Ghana should take advantage of the successes and lessons leant in developing its policies and programmes.
The statement called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is the Co-Chair of Eminent Advocates for SGDs, to provide leadership in the attainment of the SGDs target 3.4 in the country and beyond.
It called on government to implement its commitment on health financing to prevent NCDs.