The Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics has organised its second annual nutrition lecture series on the theme, “National Food and Nutrition Policy: Current State and Relevance for Public Health and Socioeconomic Development”. Speaking on the topic, “Nutrition Policy and Programmes in Ghana: the Limitation of a Single Sector Approach”, a Committee Member of World Nutrition Society, Professor Paul Amuna called for multi-sectoral approach, coherent policies and plans of actions to address the nutritional needs of the country. He also proposed that the issue of nutrition could adequately be addressed if there was a constant link between academia and service providers to share ideas on best practices.
Declining Rates of Undernutrition
Prof. Amuna who is also the Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), Ho, noted that for the past 10 years, there have been declining rates of undernutrition among women and children and improvements have been very slow across the entire population of the country. “Undernutrition is still a serious problem despite increased food production and availability. Overweight or obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCD) are also increasing,” he explained.
Touching on nutrition transition and its drivers in Ghana, Prof. Amuna explained that the role of families in shaping dietary behaviours. “There are instances where most families do not cook but normally go for meals sold outside or possibly the there is a high proportion of meals eaten alone at home most the times,” he indicated. He also pointed to the fact that the financial position of an individual was paramount to healthy dietary behaviours.
Prof. Amuna mentioned that food safety and environmental sanitation have been recognised as a big concern and important driver of dietary behaviours and, therefore, recommended the need to pay attention to the linkages between food safety and non-communicable diseases. “Is frying used as a way to ensure safety? Or Are processed foods and beverages seen as safer products?” he asked rhetorically.
Potentials of Africa Nutrition Need
Highlighting some of the potentials of Africa’s nutritional need, Prof. Amuna said with the human population of sub-Saharan Africa expected to double and the demand for food triple over the next 50 years, decisions made today could have profound effects on the future. “Addressing the challenge of achieving zero hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, whilst also reducing inequalities and conserving ecosystems has perhaps never been more critical and this needs cross-sectoral work to be effective,” he elaborated.
On his part, a council member of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, Prof. Francis Zotor, was worried that hard liquor and several alcoholic beverages were being advertised on national television. “I am even worried that most of the adverts claim that they have been censored by the Foods and Drugs Authority to be broadcast on television and on radio,” he expressed.
Pointing out some of the barriers affecting the implementation of a comprehensive policy on nutrition, Prof. Zotor mentioned the lack of governmental will power to support nutrition, non-compliance to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues, inadequate resources and capacity and donor-driven support.
Prof. Zotor who is the immediate past Dean of International Education, UHAS, indicated that in order to speed up and get nutrition on its track, there should be breakdown silos between malnutrition in all its forms as well as prioritizing and investing in data needed and capacity to use it. He said government should scale up financing for nutrition by diversifying and introducing innovation to build on past progress adding that “We need to galvanise action on healthy diets and engage across countries to address this universal problems”. Another action he mentioned was making and delivering better communities to end malnutrition in all its forms. He said “An ambitious, transformative approach will be required to meet global nutrition targets”
The Provost of the College, Prof. Johnson Nyarko Boampong, who chaired the lecture, commended the Department for spearheading the lecture series noting that “It will expose the students and the University community to various health issues and also educate them on how to deal with them”. He reiterated calls by the speakers to invest substantially in the health sector especially nutrition which would help to ensure a sound and healthy citizens to contribute to the development of the country,
The Head of the Department, Dr. Kofi Amegah, explained that the lecture series was aimed at assembling seasoned experts to share their expertise and experiences in varied fields on nutrition and dietetics with faculty, students and the entire University Community. He further indicated that such lectures would help to inform policies and present solution to challenges affecting the health sector of the country.