‘The target of less than five grams of salt per person, per day sounds unrealistic and unachievable, but I am sure that with small steps, we will make some progress towards achieving that goal.’
Those remarks were expressed by Administrative Secretary with Responsibility for Health Institutions and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Focal Point personnel in the Ministry of Health Ena Dalso-Henry as she addressed the opening of the Second Workshop on Building Capacity for Dietary Salt Reduction in the Caribbean and the Fourth Meeting of the Salt Smart Consortium which are being held simultaneously at the Jolly Beach Resort and Spa today (Thursday).
The consortium is focusing on implementing social marketing strategies to change the social norm on salt/sodium consumption in the Americas.
Dalso-Henry said she recognized that the challenge to reduce salt intake can be made even greater, with the explosion of processed foods especially meats and the fast food options that are readily available.
The senior management official in the Ministry of Health said she looks forward to full participation of all stakeholders and partners in bringing their ideas and suggestions to the table regarding the different approaches and strategies to reducing salt in the diet.
She said that Antigua and Barbuda, like most of the other countries of the region, recognizes the challenges and difficulties associated with this task and has been conducting numerous discussions on the issue.
‘Our Food-based Dietary Guidelines also convey a message to limit the use of salt and salty seasonings and that message is ongoing in terms of our promotion and education. Our NCD Policy and Multi-sect oral Action Plan 2015-19 assisted by Pan the American Health Organisation (PAHO), also addresses the issue of reducing salt in the diet, so it is important for us”, Dalso-Henry said.
She said despite that fact that base line estimates on salt consumption may not be readily available, efforts must be made to get the ball rolling.
‘We must start somewhere. Social marketing is one very low cost and one of the best buys promoted by the World Health Organization’, Dalso-Henry remarked.
She said she is confident that with great minds coming together over the next two days, some excellent ideas will be shared in plotting the way forward on the social marketing of salt reduction.
Dalso-Henry, who has a vast amount of experience in chronic disease management over the years, said she is aware of the discussions that have been taking place to reduce salt in the diet amidst a Caribbean culture that consumes foods that tend to have high sodium content.
Reducing salt in the diet is very significant to the improvement of health outcomes for the management and control of hypertension, which is said to be one of the leading causes of death in the region and even globally.
In May of 2012, the Pan American Forum for Action on Non-Communicable Diseases (PAFNCD), recommended the establishment of a Multi-Sector, Multi-Stakeholder group to address the overconsumption of dietary salt/sodium in the region.
PAHO responded in August 2012 by convening, governments, civil society, academics and major food and beverages companies, an example of the global momentum to deal with NCD’s through holistic ‘whole of society’ approaches.
The Salt Smart Consortium is being facilitated by a number of regional and international partners including Sir Trevor Hassell , President of Health Caribbean Coalition and Dr Branka Legetic Regional Advisor, Non–Communicable Diseases and Mental Health Department , Washington DC
The meeting attracts participants from Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Barbados, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Suriname and Paraguay.
The two-day building capacity workshop is being facilitated by officials from the University of South Florida WHO Collaborating Center on Social Marketing for Social Change.
Dr Tomo Kanda Advisor on Chronic Diseases and Mental Health at Pan American Health Organization also used the meeting to encourage the participants to share ideas and work towards the critical cause of dietary salt reduction in the Caribbean.
The meetings are sponsored by Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in conjunction with the government of Antigua and Barbuda.