A three-day workshop aimed at strengthening the capacity of national agencies to regulate food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages has begun in Accra.
Organised by the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), the workshop is being attended by officials from the Ministry of Health (MOH), regulatory agencies from all member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations (UN) agencies and about 50 experts drawn from across the regions.
It is on the theme “Towards strengthening regional capacity in regulation for improved nutrition and health in West Africa.”
Addressing participants, the WHO representative to Ghana, Dr Owen Kaluwa said non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease were collectively responsible for almost 70 per cent of death worldwide.
He indicated that, the rise of NCDs had been driven by four major risk factors such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.
Dr Kaluwa stated that, addressing NCDs necessitated that countries developed multi-sectoral national strategic policies to guide the work and response of all stakeholders.
“As we pursue universal health coverage we should ensure that the package of essential services we offering include interventions to address NCDs through the continuum of promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services building on primary healthcare,” he added.
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu in a speech read for him by Dr Dennis Laryea of the ministry, said the changing nature of food consumed in the country and other member countries posed health risk to the human population.
“The resort to processed foods high in sugar, salt and fats pose more health risk to consumers than the nutritional values they gain from consuming such foods,” he said.
In relation to alcohol, he said, there were serious concerns as some of the alcoholic beverages were advertised in ways that suggested they enhanced sexual performance.
Mr Agyeman-Manu added that the myriad of brands of alcoholic beverages in the country and the aggressive marketing strategies by the producers had implications for increasing consumption of the drinks.
“The effects of alcoholic consumption on road safety, general health of individuals and risky behaviour are well known,” he noted.
He said the rise in population income in the country had generally been associated with the increasing consumption of alcohol which had a negative effect on the economic progress of the country.
The minister noted that the country had made tremendous progress in regulating tobacco consumption saying “advertising of tobacco has been banned for some years now.”
In addition, he said, the consumption of “shisha” by the youth, young women and the adolescent presented potential challenges to the gains made in tobacco control in the country.
BY ABEDUWAA LUCY APPIAH