WINDHOEK - Obesity is said to be a problem in Namibia with 18.9 percent of adults reportedly obese, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
At the launch of the National Multi-sectoral Strategic Plan for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in Namibia on Friday, Dr Barango Prebo of the WHO office in Namibia said, “obesity is a problem in Namibia”.
“The risk factors are more prevalent in young people,” added Prebo. The increase in obesity is partly attributed to the marketing of unhealthy food, he said.
Prebo added that obesity and physical inactivity has become an important cause of non-communicable diseases deaths in the region.
Non-communicable diseases, also known as chronic diseases, tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviours factors.
The main types of non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attack and stroke), cancer, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.
According to statistics from WHO in Namibia, one in five people die of cardiovascular diseases, one in 10 people die from injuries including motor vehicle accidents and one in 20 from cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.
Speaking at the launch of the strategic plan on Friday, WHO country representative in Namibia Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses said modifiable behaviours such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets increase the risk of non-communicable diseases.
He further highlighted statistics from WHO indicating that 20 percent of Namibians smoke tobacco, over 40 percent of Namibians have raised blood pressure and 10 percent are obese.
Furthermore, Sagoe-Moses noted that Namibians consume 10.8 litres of alcohol per capita. This makes it the highest in the Southern Africa region.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila also spoke at the launch of the strategic plan.
Officially launching the document, she said: “the strategic plan also aims to address unhealthy behaviour on things like tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and misuse of alcohol and harmful substances.”
The PM added that the strategic plan demonstrates government’s commitment to ease the current non-communicable diseases burden. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said deaths due to non-communicable diseases can be prevented if people adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Namibia is said to have one of the highest prevalence of high blood pressure in the region, she added.
Touching on the tobacco use statistics, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila noted that tobacco use for men is at 19 percent from the age of 21 and five percent for women around the age of 34 years. With the current statistics on non-communicable diseases prevailing in the country, it is expected that there will be a rise in the burden of non-communicable diseases over the years, said the Premier. This would rob the country of its productive citizens if nothing is done to change the status quo, added the PM. She emphasised that people need to change their behaviours. The socio-economic costs associated with non-communicable diseases make the control and prevention of these diseases a major developmental priority for Namibia, added Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
As part of the launch of the strategic plan, there was a screening for diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and prostate cancer. There was also an information session on adopting healthy lifestyles.