Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Reporter
The World Health Organisation has called for stringent laws and policies on marketing and selling of unhealthy foods to discourage people from consuming them amid revelations that the number of diabetes cases continues to rise. In a statement released to mark this year’s World Diabetes Day, commemorated every year on November 14, WHO regional director Dr Matshidiso Moeti said globally, there has been a rise in the number of obesity in children and adolescent.
In Africa, Dr Moeti said the number of children who are overweight or obese has nearly doubled since 1990, increasing from 5,4 million to 10,3 million. According to the WHO, overweight and obese children are likely to become overweight and obese adults. In the African region, in 2014, it was estimated that 22,9 percent of men and 38,6 percent of women above the age of 18 were obese.
“Overweight and obesity are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers in later life. Overweight and obese children and adolescents also experience psycho-social problems such as bullying, stigma and poor education attainment,” said Dr Moeti.
She attributed the growing numbers of overweight and obese to poor diets, which she said was a result of aggressive marketing of foods rich in fats, sugar, and salt as well as inadequate physical activity among children, adolescents and adults. Dr Moeti said as a result of these challenges, it was advisable for governments to put in place strict measures to protect people from consuming these unhealthy foods.
“Policies that increase availability of nutritious and healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables should be promoted. Fiscal measures should be taken to increase the price of foods high in fat, sugar and salt in order to reduce their consumption,” said Dr Moeti. She said to reduce prevalence of diabetes, a life-course approach should also be taken from early ages of childhood up to adulthood.
“Physical activity should be promoted in every setting including at home, school, city walkways, streets, roads and at the work place,” she said. Dr Moeti said the WHO will continue to support Governments in their efforts to improve the prevention and control of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. Diabetes is when a person’s blood glucose or sugar levels are too low or too high.
In Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Diabetic Association estimates that 10 percent of non communicable diseases were diabetic cases. However, majority of diabetes cases go unnoticed as most people do not know that they are diabetic. Diabetes can lead to high rates of ill health, disability and premature deaths. It has severe health complications such as blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy, disability and premature death. It also has serious economic consequences which include loss of productivity and high health care costs.