Editor's Comment

Embrace healthy living


THAT Government has developed about 4,000 copies of food and nutrition guidelines aimed at encouraging the populace to live healthily and productively is not only commendable but a practical step to creating a healthy and wealthy nation.
This intervention is timely given that Zambia, like many other countries across the globe, is grappling with the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) due to bad eating habits and inactivity.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines NCDs as ailments that cannot be passed from one person to another. They are generally slow in progression and of long duration.
These diseases are mostly associated with lifestyle and diet.
The globalisation of unhealthy lifestyles, urbanisation, and liberal market forces are no doubt fuelling NCDs.
The most common NCDs include cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), diabetes mellitus (type II), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma), epilepsy, mental illnesses, oral health, eye diseases, sickle-cell anaemia, and injuries.
In Zambia, NCDs account for 23 percent of all deaths, according to the submission made by President Edgar Lungu to the high-level meeting at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly recently.
President Lungu, who called for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to halt mortality due to NCDs, said 18 percent of these deaths in Zambia are premature.
He said cardiovascular diseases alone affect 8 percent of the adult population in Zambia.
Zambia Demographic Health Survey also indicates that incidences of obesity stand at 23 percent among women of child-bearing age.
At global level, NCDs are responsible for 41 million deaths or 70 percent of all deaths per annum.
The 73rd UNGA also heard that this year alone, 15 million people aged between 30 and 70 will die from NCDs.
NCDs are also said to be responsible for annual GDP losses of up to 6 percent per annum.
Amid such alarming statistics, Maria Espinosa, President of the 73rd UNGA, warned, “If urgent measures are not taken to stop lifestyle and diet-related deaths, NCDs would cost developing countries US$7 trillion between 2010 and 2025.
“The state of NCDs today should alarm us all: 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 70 will die this year from NCDs. And most of these, at least 80 percent, live in developing countries. Men and women who should be living vibrant, productive lives are dying far too early,” Ms Espinosa said during the recent 73rd UNGA high-level meeting on the Control and Prevention of NCDs.
Ms Espinosa pointed out, and rightly so, that NCDs have become our biggest health challenge and are an economic sinkhole, absorbing healthcare costs faster than we can keep up with.
Figures speak for themselves that NCD diseases are a huge threat to our country’s economy as is the case in many other developing countries.
It is said that the wealth of a nation lies in the health of its citizenry. When citizens enjoy good health, they are able to give out their best in the production chain of the economy.
However, if citizens are in bad health, the economy suffers due to lost production hours and excessive expenditure on health care at the expense of investing in wealth creation.
The need for citizens to adopt healthy lifestyles to avoid the negative repercussions that come with ill health cannot therefore be overemphasised.
It is saddening that many Zambians have resorted to suicidal lifestyles of junk foods. This is seen in the rising cases of obesity.
It is, however, commendable that Government is working towards promoting a healthy citizenry by providing food and nutrition guidelines.
“We have developed recipes of traditional foods and compiled recipe books that are being used as tools for demonstrating the utilisation of locally available foods,” Minister of Agriculture Michael Katambo said.
It is good that Government has already started distributing the recipe books to communities, camp extension officers and other field workers.
Government should also use churches, schools and other gatherings to distribute this important information.
There is also need for heightened sensitisation on the need to eat healthily even as people are availed with these recipes.
Citizens should also emulate President Lungu, who has taken fitness training as a lifestyle.
Given that Zambia is not only suffering from obesity but malnutrition as well, there is need to encourage crop diversification as a way of ensuring availability of diverse nutritious foods.
Above all, it is every citizen’s responsibility to keep healthy through good nutrition and physical fitness.

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