There is a need for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to adopt healthy lifestyles to address health challenges such as Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) like HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, and malaria, among others, that the Region faces, SADC Executive Secretary, His Excellency Mr Elias M. Magosi, has said.
H.E Magosi said this when delivering the keynote address during the SADC Healthy Lifestyle Day Commemoration hosted by the National Coordinator for National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency(NAHPA) at Tsholofelo Park in Gaborone, Botswana, on 25th February 2022.
The event was held under the theme; “Risk Factors of Today are Diseases of Tomorrow”, and was aimed at raising awareness and threats posed by NCDs. The occasion was also a stimulant to solicit participation in healthy lifestyles such as promotion of good health through regular physical activities, healthy eating, tobacco control as well as interventions against harmful use of alcohol and substance abuse.
H.E Magosi underscored that in Southern Africa, as is in most parts of the world, lifestyle challenges and standards of living are presently altering the disease landscape resulting in NCDs such as heart and respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancers being on the rise, and likely to result in unwanted consequence of unhealthy and aging population .
He also outlined interventions that SADC has put in place in response to the fast rise in NCDs, including conducting research in order to understand the levels, patterns, and trends of these diseases and continued coordination efforts to ensure that measures aimed at preventing and controlling these diseases are consistent across the Region.
He further appraised on the facilitatory role of the SADC Secretariat in providing regional guidance to SADC Member States in the prevention and management of overweight and obesity, which he said was a growing concern in SADC, highlighting that in collaboration with cooperating partners, the Secretariat has successfully developed several tools, including the Food Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDGs), which have been adopted by the SADC Member States.
H.E Magosi also said that it was befitting for the Government of Botswana to assertively encourage and empower communities with knowledge about healthy lifestyles and nutritious foods through national policies and programmes which promote healthy eating habits, physical health, and well-being.
Standing in for the Minister of Health and Wellness for the Republic of Botswana, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti, the Deputy Permanent Secretary responsible for Health Services, Monitoring, Evaluation and Quality Assurance at the Ministry of Health and Wellness for the Republic of Botswana, Dr Onalenna Seitio-Kgokgwe, underscored the severity of NCDs such as cardiovascular conditions, cancer, diabetes, and the chronic respiratory diseases.She said according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) country profile for Botswana (2018), out of a total of 16 000 deaths, 46% were attributed to NCDs.
Dr Seitio-Kgokgwe urged communities to steadfastly take heed of their well-being through leading healthy lifestyles, more especially during recent times where the COVID-19 pandemic also takes advantage of one’s weak immune system, putting those with underlying health conditions at higher risk to face devasting outcomes when infected by the coronavirus.
She stated that the way in which a person lives has a key role in shaping the life which one is likely to live and also plays an important factor in how healthy one becomes, thereby urging the community to be more mindful of what they consume, at the same time encouraging people to keep a high level of fitness through regular exercises, and reducing consumption of harmful substances such as smoke, alcohol and drugs.
The WHO Country Representative for Botswana, Dr. Josephine Namboze, reiterated the support by the WHO to SADC Member States and further applauded the collective efforts by implementing and coordinating agencies in ensuring that all different actions are leading to a healthier and prosperous society, and making sure that everyone has access to services and adequate knowledge and information in relation to matters of their health and well-being.
Amongst others, the event was also graced by Court President for Broadhurst, Kgosi Charles Koitsiwe, National Coordinator for National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency, Mr. Ontiretse Letlhare, and representatives of the District Commissioner for Gaborone as well as Representative of the Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central who took the opportunity to advocate through peer encouragement, sustainable change of lifestyle, and support to communities in the fight against NCDs.