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03.09.2019 Health

New Project To Create Healthy Food Environment Launched

...As Obesity Among Women Increases
By Dominick Andoh
New Project To Create Healthy Food Environment Launched

An international team of researchers, led by the University of Ghana, are exploring innovations to support public sector actions that create healthy food environment in Ghana.

The Project, Code-named MEALS4NCDs, focuses on food promotion and food provisioning. The project will adapt and use approaches and tools developed by the International Network for Food and Obesity/non-communicable diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) to support prevention of diseases such as obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and other nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The project is also a deliberate response to the current local, regional, and global problem of NCDs. Currently, NCDs are responsible for several million deaths annually.

In some African countries, NCDs cause over 50% of all reported adult deaths (43% in Ghana). Data from nationally representative surveys, the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) show a skyrocketing prevalence of adult obesity in Ghana, especially among women.

Regarding dietary intakes, the DHS shows that, Ghanaian households frequently consume bouillon cubes (70%), salted dried fish (36%), and foods processed with salt (84%); however, fruits or vegetables consumption is very low – three times a week.

In his opening remarks, the Project Leader, Dr. Amos Laar noted that the project aligns well with recent Global Political Declarations and Resolutions.

“In May 2010, the WHA [World Health Assembly], through resolution WHA63.14, aimed to guide efforts by Member States in designing new policies, or strengthening existing policies, on food marketing communications to children in order to reduce the impact of marketing foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt”.

Aside health, there are economic reasons to combat NCDs. Paragraph 7 of the 2018 United Nations Political Declaration on NCDs “Express grave concern that the huge human and economic cost of non‑communicable diseases contributes to poverty and inequities and threatens the health of peoples and the development of countries, costing developing countries over the next 15 years more than US$7 trillion.”

The MEALS4NCDs Project not only pays heed to these declarations and resolutions, it is responsive to the WHO Best Buys for NCDs prevention. The project team and partners have the vision to activate the entire arsenal of Food Environment innovations to combat NCDs. Policies, Regulatory, Fiscal, and Legislative measures will eventually be deployed in ways that make unhealthy food unaffordable, and unattractive while making healthy food available and attractive, Dr. Laar added.

In his welcome message, the Dean, School of Public Health, University of Ghana – Professor Julius Fobil reiterated the timeliness of the project and expressed the School’s full support for the Project.

Other collaborating universities for the project include: University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), the Ghana Health Service (GHS), the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Kenya, National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), France, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and the Scientific Institute of Public Health (Sciensano), Belgium.

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