Reflections On Ministry Of Health’s Committee On Diet And Healthy Living

Prof.-Badu-AkosaThe Ministry of Health (MOH) in furtherance of its efforts to ensure healthy living recently inaugurated a six-member diet and healthy living committee tasked to come out with recommendations that will be implemented nationwide to ensure that every Ghanaian eats well and adapts a healthy lifestyle that will increase his/her life expectancy.

The committee members are Professor Agyemang Badu  Akosa, former Director General of the Ghana Health Service (chairman), Professor Reginald Ocansey, Mr Kaku Kyiamah, Mr. Kofi Adusei, Mrs. Wilhemina Okwabi and Ms. Juliet Asare-Adjei.

The task of the committee also includes but not limited  to research into the health risks of salt and sugar intake, recommend appropriate edible fats in Ghana and the levels and types of salts and sugars for consumption and provide guidelines for implementation of the recommendations within the context of the historical, cultural and traditional practice.

One might wonder why the Minister of Health, and for that matter, the government would want to undertake such a ventures.

However, one must understand that the strategic direction of improving human capital makes health central to Ghana’s development efforts: only a healthy population can bring about improved productivity and subsequently increase in GDP, and by doing ensure economic growth.  Hence the old adage, “a healthy population is a wealthy population”.

Indeed it can be argued that a healthy population can only be achieved if there are :-
*  improvements in environment in hygiene and sanitation
* proper housing and town planning
* provision of safe water
* provision of safe food and nutrition
* encouragement of regular physical exercises and
* improvement in personal hygiene among others.

It is important to note that there have been a number of demographic and lifestyle changes over the years.  Ghana’s population is increasing, is youthful, has more females, is becoming older, is becoming more urbanized and is under-going lifestyle changes, all of which have implications for health and development.

It is equally important to note that improving the health and nutritional status of the population lead to savings on treating preventable diseases, improved productivity, economic development and wealth creation.

The committee is, therefore, expected to recommend measures that will lead to empowering individuals, households and communities to make informed choices for their health through provision of information, education and creation of an enabling environment.

In the same vein the committee is also expected to recommend measures that will lead to branding and marketing healthy living, targeting specific population groups such as mothers, children, adolescents and adults with relevant messages on safe sex, healthy eating, exercises, rest and recreation and a life, free of addictive and substance abuse.

As a country we should be able to come out with policy measures that will ensure food safety by promoting collaboration between the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Ghana Standards Authority ((GSA), Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and the Ghana Police Service to develop and enforce standards for the production, storage, sale and handling of food and drinks in markets, restaurants and through other vendors.

Similarly, there should be policy measures to promote eating programmes in schools and in communities by introducing nutritional education into the school curriculum and by collaborating with caterers, food vendors and restaurants/ ‘chop bars’ (local restaurants) and the media.

Other policy measures that are feasible include setting up model regenerative health and nutrition training centres to facilitate changes in lifestyle, promoting physical exercise, rest and recreation by making physical education mandatory in all schools and colleges and making recommendations for adults and finally promoting lifestyles free of addictives and substance abuse by establishing designated ‘no smoking’ in public places, disseminating laws on drug abuse and tobacco control, strengthening collaboration with the police on enforcing penalties for drunk driving and smoking in public places.

Balanced diet and healthy lifestyles can contribute to having a healthy population for national development.  So let us all support the committee in its work to enable it make implementable recommendations that will benefit the current generation and generations yet unborn.

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