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Delhi summit calls for an urgent need to reduce salt intake

Feb 10, 2017

Salt reduction in diet warrants attention because of the growing incidence of heart related diseases like hypertension.

New Delhi: Realising that salt reduction in India requires a multi-stakeholder effort that can take into account the growing incidence of hypertension and cardiac diseases largely resulting from intake of sodium beyond the WHO recommended guidelines of 5 mg per day, experts have called for a national strategy to reduce salt intake in India.

Speaking at the Salt Summit in New Delhi representatives from various sectors flagged their concern for the growing number of non-communicable diseases and ample evidence to directly link it to high salt intake. The summit with a focus on devising a strategy for salt reduction in India was organised by Global Health in association with Arogya World.

The summit, a multi-stakeholder forum, brought together key representatives from the government, food industry, academic and research organisations, civil society representatives and the media.

India’s Health Secretary, C K Mishra, said NCDs are now recognised by the Government of India as a major health issue and figure as part of the National Health Mission. “The Ministry will be starting a universal screening programme from April onwards covering five NCDs namely diabetes, hypertension, oral, cervical and breast cancers,’’ he informed adding that mortality is more because detection is very low.

India is one of the first countries to have developed an action plan for meeting the NCDs’ ten targets. One of the targets is 30 per cent relative reduction in mean population intake of salt/sodium. This will also directly help in achieving the other target which is 25 per cent relative reduction in raised blood pressure, or contain the prevalence of raised blood pressure.

Nalini Saligram, CEO, Arogya world, said that nothing less than the health of future generations in India was at stake. “In India, we need action from the government of India, food manufacturers, private sector, restaurants, street vendors, cafeteria managers, housewives, civil society and academic and research community,” she said.

“We call on each stakeholder group to initiate action and report back on progress made every year at the annual Salt Summits that we plan to organise from this year.  We hope to showcase meaningful action from each stakeholder group in India against the important salt reduction target,” Nalini added.

Several studies carried out in the developing countries, including India, have been reporting an increase in the prevalence of diet related chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like overweight and obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, other cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancers, especially among urban population.

Dr Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director, George Institute for Global Health, India, said that raised blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors for global mortality. “Raised blood pressure is estimated to have caused 9.4 million deaths and 7 per cent of disease burden – as measured in DALYs − in 2010,” he said.

“About 1 in 3 of all adult Indians has high blood pressure, that itself makes it a major public health burden. Five out of the top 10 causes of deaths in India are now due to NCDs. What is more alarming is the inexorable rise in the contribution of NCDs to all deaths, presenting a challenge for health community,” Dr Jha added.

The prevalence of raised blood pressure in India is around 26 percent and is considered to be a leading cause of death, stroke, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and chronic renal impairment.

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