Editor's Comment

Zambians should avoid junk food

IT IS vital children eat healthy food.

AT A time when the country is grappling with malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, the country’s disease burden is further compounded by non-communicable diseases.
The burden of TB in Zambia is among the highest in Africa. In 2013, the prevalence was estimated at 388 per 100,000 population, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Malaria, on the other hand, is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Zambia, particularly in highly endemic areas and among pregnant women and children under five years.
Zambia is also experiencing a generalised HIV/AIDS epidemic, with a national HIV prevalence rate of 17 percent among adults aged 15 to 49.
With the help of cooperating partners, Government has been working hard to overcome malaria, TB and HIV.
Just when the battle against malaria, TB and HIV is being won, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have emerged and are reversing the gains the health sector has made over the years.
It is a pity that the NCDs are now the main drivers of ill-health and death in developing countries like Zambia.
NCD diseases have not spared our health sector and continue to escalate.
What is worrying though is that in most cases, NCDs affect the productive age group of our society causing premature deaths and disability.
This tends to negatively impact on our nation’s socio-economic landscape.
Currently, about 23 percent of all deaths in our country are due to NCDs, most of which are preventable.
Tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances are the underlying causes of NCDs.
NCDs will compromise Zambia’s goal of attaining a prosperous middle-income status by the year 2030. The sad part is that many non-communicable diseases are a result of lifestyle choices.
Have citizens ever wondered why we see a lot of young Zambians at joints selling junk foods?
Looking at the trends, there are few incidences of NCDs like cancer and diabetes in rural areas, where people are forced, for lack of a better term, to eat wholesome, healthy foods free of the chemicals, additives and fats contained in junk foods.
That is why Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya wants chiefs to be involved in sensitisation because modernity is increasingly bringing fast food joints to rural areas, with people there making more and more unhealthy choices on food.
While NCDs are on the rise in Zambia, health researchers should continue looking at the root cause because junk foods only may not entirely be attributed to the increase of NCDs.
Eating junk food may just be part of the problem but having a functional and well-structured health system is key.
As the country searches for a solution to the problem of NCDs, there are a few questions that would put the whole picture into perspective. We assume that what the minister said is evidenced-based. Was a study done which presented that evidence so that it could guide the policy-makers? How many eat junk food? Is that the biggest cause of NCDs in Zambia?
The minister has extended the debate to our traditional rulers to help in finding the solution to the escalation of NCDs.
For now, citizens will do well to cut down on drivers of NCDs. There is no pride in the rising NCDs in Zambia becaus e they are preventable.
Zambians at all levels should aspire for a disease-free generation.
It is said prevention is better than cure.

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