Thursday, 5 January 2012

Does our growing prosperity mean a future of obesity problems for Ghana???

I grew up in a household where every meal had to be accompanied by a nourishing serving of vegetables but after meeting my son’s father (we are both Ghanaian, me born here in London and he -born in Ghana)  -I found out very quickly that was not the case for all Ghanaian households. My son’s father, a man who can and did eat rice everyday -was under the impression that the tomatoes used in the ubiquitous stew was enough vegetables (thank you very much) and didn’t understand why I had to add a side serving of salad etc etc. Thus, I learnt very quickly that even though Ghana is a tropical country -we as a whole don’t tend to eat enough fruits and vegetables and I wonder why? Are the droughts effecting these crops or they too expensive for the ordinary man to afford or is the idea to grow them and just sell them abroad?
I also have a real problem with the way we drink oil…. I remember whilst growing up, my mother would use palm oil (its very good for you but tooo rich for me) and all her stews, soups etc etc (all very tasty I might add) where covered in oil -and it was perceived as perfect… well that was the case until my father got an ulcer and the Opoku-Gyimah family had a crush course in the health benefits of using smaller amounts of oil (or scooping off all the excess oils from said food).. Are we being educated against our love of oil rich food? Are we still eating food drenched in oil or drinking soup covered in oil?

I’m not saying that the Ghanaian government needs to teach us how to eat…but I truly believe that as we start to prosper and mimic western ways of eating, as we shift from making our own food to buying convenience food and snacking (honestly I’ve been snacking all my life -bad girl…I know) -the government needs to educate the nation about health and nutrition….
The following conclusion(s) are taken from: -the Globalization and Health website, -and concerning the introduction of health policies implemented to reduce the risk factors for “chronic non-communicable diseases” in Ghana to “promote a healthy population by encouraging people to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviours”. Written by Henry A Tagoe and Fidelia AA Dake, it “examined healthy lifestyle behaviour among Ghanaian adults by comparing behaviours before and after the introduction of a national health policy” and also explores “the socio-economic and demographic factors associated with healthy lifestyle behaviour”. …….These findings make for an incredible read….and can be read in full via:

Title: Healthy lifestyle behaviour among Ghanaian adults in the phase of a health policy change..

By Henry A Tagoe and Fidelia AA Dake*

The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Ghana as part of its effort to reduce the incidence of preventable diseases and to promote regenerative health in the country adopted the concept of “Regenerative Health and Nutrition (RHN)”. The main objective of the program is to promote healthy lifestyles, dietary practices and mother and child care practices that would help eliminate the many diseases that impact on the health and well-being of Ghanaians. The concept of regenerative health and nutrition was adopted by the MOH from Dimona, Israel, where a community of more than 3,000 African Hebrews have lived for over 40 years without any recorded deaths among the people during this period [20]. Due to healthy lifestyle behaviours (including the adoption of vegan diets), the African Hebrews have been able to eliminate hypertension, diabetes, cancer and other chronic non-communicable diseases from their community [21]. The program covers three main modules; (a) mother and child care (b) healthy lifestyle and (c) regenerative nutrition [22]. Key interventions under the program are geared towards; healthy diet (increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, reducing the intake of meat, salt and saturated oils/fats, reducing or eliminating smoking and alcohol intake); exercise (increasing daily physical activity including cardiovascular exercise); rest (adopting regular relaxation practices to minimise physical and emotional stress) and environmental sanitation (maintaining personal and environmental cleanliness and advocating for portable water use). Under these interventions it is recommended that individuals consume five servings each of fruits and vegetables and also drink eight glasses of water a day. Living in a clean environment is encouraged and smoking and alcohol consumption are to be avoided.

The Ghana Regenerative Health and Nutrition Program was adopted in 2005 and piloted in 2006. The initial pilot involved ten districts across seven administrative regions. As part of the pilot program about 700 change agents and 5000 advocates were trained [23].

Change agents and advocates of the program are members of the community who are trained in the principles and practices of RHN and they in turn educate their community members [22]. The program has trained over 50,000 change agents and advocates throughout the country over the four year period (2006 to 2010) [24]. Mass communication through the use of both print and electronic media serves as a means of reaching the population with the messages of the program. In this paper the authors compare the prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle behaviours among Ghanaian adult before and after the adoption of the regenerative health and nutrition program with a focus on behaviours including fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. This paper also assesses the trend and the socio-economic and demographic determinants of healthy lifestyle behaviours among Ghanaian adults prior to and after the introduction of this policy. The paper also highlights the implication of unhealthy lifestyle behaviour on morbidity and mortality in the country. The authors hope this paper will generate a new research agenda and also bring to bear the health challenges risky lifestyle behaviours pose to developing countries……………………………….....

More .....This paper examined the trend in healthy lifestyle behaviour among Ghanaian adults in the phase of the“Regenerative Health and Nutrition” health policy. Our findings reveal an increase in risky lifestyle behaviour among males and a decrease in risky lifestyle behaviour among females after the RHN program was introduced. The results of this study also revealed that risky lifestyle behaviours are more common in urban areas compared to rural. This result buttresses the argument that urban areas in developing countries are increasing becoming unhealthy environments in terms of lifestyle behaviours compared to rural areas. This trend may be partly responsible for the higher prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases in urban areas of developing countries as reported by the World Health Organisation [25].

It was also found that prior to the introduction of the program, in 2003, Ghanaian adults who had some level of education were less likely to exhibit healthy lifestyle behaviours. In 2008, after the introduction of the program, a reversed trend between educational attainment and healthy lifestyle behaviour was observed. Ghanaian adults were more likely to live a healthier lifestyle with increasing levels of educational attainment. The significant decline in risky lifestyle behaviour among the highly educated and among professional workers in 2008 after the introduction of the regenerative health and nutrition health policy in Ghana brings to the fore issues of access to regenerative health and nutrition information and the financial ability to effect a lifestyle behaviour change. The relatively high income level of professional workers gives them the opportunity to access the appropriate nutrition in terms of fruits and vegetables recommended under the program. Having high education also means they are an audience who can be reached with the messages of the program and thus they are more likely to change their behaviour. Behaviour change among the highly educated and professional workers does not end there. It is also more likely to be sustained since people of such calibre are also able to integrate the changed behaviour into their everyday lives and this is because they have the financial means, the knowledge base and the autonomy to be able to do so [26].

Improvement in the economic conditions of people is an asset but can be a liability as well. As revealed by this study, increasing income levels is generally associated with living risky lifestyles. This is especially so because people tend to engage in luxurious lifestyles including unhealthy snacking, consumption of high fat diets and sedentary lifestyles as their economic condition improves. This is a common occurrence in developing countries because such luxurious lifestyles are deemed prestigious and are also seen as a sign of wealth[1]. Such lifestyle behaviours, however, are unhealthy and have implications for the incidence of non-communicable diseases and mortality in developing countries. This study gives preliminary results and shows the changes in lifestyle behaviours immediately before and after the introduction of the regenerative health and nutrition policy in Ghana. While this study makes important contributions to this area of research the results are likely to be influenced by differences in survey design....

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