March 2014 TheHerald; Last week a Social Determinants of Health Working Group Orientation Meeting was held in Harare. Focal persons from 10 ministries in the Government of Zimbabwe attended the meeting, including the Office of the President and Cabinet and the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC).
The newly established Social Determinants of Health (SDH) Working Group was made possible with the technical and financial support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Zimbabwe office.According to WHO, “social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.
These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices.”
Dr David Okello, the WHO Zimbabwe Representative, noted that addressing the social determinants of health is essential if the health targets set by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be achieved in the African Region.
MDGs are eight goals that 194 UN Member States have agreed to make strides to achieve by the year 2015. They encompass poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.
Dr Okello noted that Zimbabwe has lost some momentum in driving the agenda on social determinants of health but now is the opportune moment to revive its agenda.”Some of the key determinants in Zimbabwe relate with health risk factors such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, and consumption of unhealthy diets,” described Dr Okello.
Many of these factors play an integral role in the exploding rates of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancer.
Type 2 diabetes is known to damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure and approximately 50 per cent of diabetics die of cardiovascular diseases.Cardiovascular disease (CVD) has a broad meaning and is actually a collection of diseases and conditions. In fact, some types of cardiovascular disease can cause other types of cardiovascular disease.
It is normally seen as chain reaction that is associated with conditions like obesity, diabetes and kidney disease.
Addressing social determinants of health such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, and raised cholesterol can prevent approximately 80 per cent of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of high blood pressure is highest amongst Africans, with over 40 per cent of adults thought to be affected.
It is estimated that one in three Zimbabweans are not doing enough physical activity to maintain good health.Regular physical activity is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and breast and colon cancers. Obesity is becoming a real public health challenge and its prevention also requires approaches that ensure a sustainable, adequate and nutritious food supply.
Very little of this action sits within the capabilities or responsibilities of the health sector and highlights the importance of effective policy making and implementation.Positive advances could include advertisement bans on fast foods that are high in fats, sugars and salt.
Additional interventions are also needed to curb the marketing and advertising of tobacco and alcohol products that are aimed to persuade vulnerable populations.