Seychelles' health experts call for policies to make healthy foods more affordable 

Health |Author: Rita Joubert-Lawen Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | July 3, 2024, Wednesday @ 09:06| 2340 views

Dr Pascal Bovet revealed that NCDs were attributed to 60 percent of deaths in the island nation. (Wikimedia/Volganet.ruCC-BY-SA 3.0

Health officials in Seychelles are calling for fiscal and trade policies that make healthy foods more affordable and accessible as well as the development of cycling lanes and safe pavements to make people more active to curb non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The call was made on Tuesday at the Sheikh Khalifa Diagnostic Centre at Seychelles Hospital, after presenting the findings of the latest survey on cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases. 

NCDs are those not transmitted through infections from person to person, such as heart diseases, diabetes and cancer.

The study, held from August 16 to December 17, 2023, assessed the distribution of health behaviours, diet and main risk factors in the whole population of Seychelles.

A random selection of 1,205 people aged 18-74 living on the three main islands, Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, provided information about their behaviour and lifestyles in relation to non-communicable diseases in the country.

In his speech to launch the dialogue between those attending the presentation, the Public Health Commissioner, Dr Jude Gedeon, said "key findings show both progress and challenges - while socio-economic indicators are promising certain persist over risk factors, and these necessitate urgent attention."

While the study has found a decrease in the number of people smoking, it also revealed a "sharply increasing prevalence of obesity as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes," he added.

When presenting the findings of the latest survey, cardiovascular health consultant, Dr Pascal Bovet, revealed that NCDs were attributed to 60 percent of deaths in the island nation.

"What we have also seen is that people need more awareness, especially where high blood pressure is concerned," said Bovet.

Despite popular belief that people can tell when their blood pressure is too high, the illness does not show any symptoms.

Gedeon said this is "why people rarely concern themselves to check when they are feeling fine. The study highlights gaps in awareness, treatment, and control of NCD risk factors."

In the case of the increase in obesity from 47 percent in 1989 to 78 percent in 2023, Bovet recommended medical assistance for cases of high cardiovascular risk such as bariatric surgery. He added that a ban on advertising of unhealthy foods as well as cigarettes and alcohol would also help in reducing their consumption.

The representatives attending the meeting were from different sectors such as environment and non-governmental organisations. Bovet said, "You are all involved in policy making in one way or another and these findings will help in informing policy and will guide programmatic action."

The presentation of the findings is the first in a series to raise awareness of what the team has seen in the study.

"We hope that the awareness raised in the public will lead to change and results, by providing impactful interventions," said  Gedeon.

The report was finalised in April and the findings were presented to the Cabinet of Ministers in June. The study is available on the Ministry of Health's website.

Tags: non-communicable diseases, NCD risk factor


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