Reducing salt intakes has been identified as one of the most cost effective measures for improving population health outcomes throughout the world, with the potential to save millions of lives each year. Almost everyone benefits from salt reduction, not just people with high blood pressure.
Dr. Chen Ken, World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative to the South Pacific, said that people are eating too much salt which is bad for health.
High salt intakes lead to high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than those with normal blood pressure and twice as likely to die from these diseases. High salt intakes are also associated with a range of other illnesses including stomach cancer, osteoporosis and asthma.
A recent WHO survey has shown that high blood pressure is a major problem in the Pacific. In Fiji for instance, the survey reveals that the prevalence of high blood pressure in the age group 15 – 64 yrs is 19.1%. In the same survey in some other Pacific island countries the prevalence is unacceptably as high as 34%. This together with high blood sugar level, high blood cholesterol level and obesity are the major attributable causes of premature deaths in Fiji and the Pacific. About 75% of the deaths in the Pacific region are attributable to NCDs.
Reducing salt intakes has been identified as one of the most cost effective measures for improving population health outcomes throughout the world, with the potential to save millions of lives each year. Almost everyone benefits from salt reduction, not just people with high blood pressure. What`s more, the effects are cumulative throughout life, so even reducing children`s salt intakes reduces the burden of disease in later life.
On this basis, WHO has been encouraging all countries to reduce average salt intakes to less than 5 g/day through the development of national salt reduction strategies and considering how best it would further support this regionally.
As an outcome of the meeting, WHO together with its partners is providing support to Pacific island countries in the development of salt reduction programme that will be implemented at a low cost within the framework of existing National NCD strategies. Key strategies include advocacy, assessment of dietary intake, consumer empowerment and working with the food industry to reduce the salt content of foods and improving labeling.
Other countries like Solomon Islands and Tonga are following suit and WHO commits to support these cost-effective initiatives in the pacific island countries.