The effect of diseases like diabetes on an already stretched health system would be dire, Health Minister Aaron Motsoledi has said.
Motsoaledi attended the release of the findings of the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination survey in Pretoria today.
He said the health system was already stretched because of HIV and Aids, “and now with the emergence of NCDs (non-communicable diseases), the consequences would be dire”.
The first comprehensive survey of the health and nutrition status of South Africans has found the nation is not only physical unhealthy but is worsening the situation by eating the wrong foods.
The survey, based on interviews with 25 532 people of which 12 025 were physically examined as well as 8 078 blood specimens, showed a disturbing trend of the number of people at risk of developing lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes in the next few years.
A total of 10.4% of participants 15 years or older were predisposed to hypertension. Diabetes was diagnosed in 9.5% of the same age group while one in five were predisposed to diabetes.
The study also showed the risk of lifestyle diseases was increased by the choice of food people ate and the lack of exercise.
Professor Olive Shisana, who heads the Human Sciences Research Council which conducted the survey with the Medical Research Council, said: “The number of people (who are) pre-hypertensive and pre-diabetic is a serious problem in South Africa.”
She recommended the national department of health address the risk factors of non-communicable diseases at home, school and in the workplace.
Said she: “We recommend the department introduces policies that discourage or ban the explicit promotion of foods known to be associated with increasing the risk of NCDs.
“Such foods should display appropriate warning labels so that the public is aware of potential harm.”
Motsoaledi said the government was trying to fight this scourge by introducing new regulations and legislation relating to control of unhealthy habits including reducing the amount of salt and fatty acids in food and banning alcohol advertising.
Said Motsoaledi: “We are not doing this because we are a nanny state, but because we are concerned about the health of the nation.”
» Read more on this story in City Press on Sunday.
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