Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are facing great challenges to prevent and manage Public Health Problems (PHP), several of which are diet related.
These remarks were made by Professor Ali Dhansay at the recent Technical Consultation Meeting in Gauteng, Johannesburg, South Africa, for the preparation of food-based dietary guidelines and nutrition education for promoting healthy diets. It was contained in a dossier sent to this medium by The Gambia National Nutrition Agency, which were represented at the event by Modou Cheyassen Phall its Executive Director.
He added that there are a multiple of disease burdens faced by Africa which includes infectious diseases, neglected tropical diseases, under-nutrition, overweight, obesity, non-communicable diseases, violence, natural disasters of which communicable and non-communicable diseases are responsible for high mortality in Africa. He pointed out that under nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and related non-communicable diseases are on the health agenda of most countries.
Professor Dhansay highlighted that countries can be described by the relative proportion of each of these diet related PHPs which is influenced by the stage of the epidemiological and nutrition transitions that they are facing.
“The emergence of nutrition related non-communicable diseases have occurred at a faster rate in sub-Saharan Africa and at a lower economic level than in industrialised countries. These conditions are strongly inter-related as, under-nutrition places people at risk of developing non-communicable diseases; people with diabetes have a greater risk to contact tuberculosis than people without diabetes.
Maternal obesity is also associated with more than doubled risk stillbirth and perinatal death; and infectious diseases place children and adults at risk of developing under-nutrition,” he asserted.
He suggested for the eating patterns associated with prevention of the above conditions, such beneficial foods he said, includes minimally processed grains, legumes, green leaves, vegetables, fruits and nuts or seeds. Professor Dhansay advised for the limit of foods and ingredients that can have a negative impact on health such as, fatty meat, refined carbohydrates, sugar sweetened beverages, salt and alcohol.
“The eating patterns recommended for one, should equally address the solution to everyone hence we live in families, therefore the target should be families in the regions.”
In conclusion, he underscored the significance of the unified approach which he said will ensure recommended behaviours are the same for all diet related chronic conditions and that effective planning for life course approach of nutrition is needed at country levels.
by Saffiatou Colley