The Fifth Africa Healthy Lifestyle Day would be commemorated in Ghana and all AU Member States and at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, tomorrow Friday 22nd of February 2013.
As a member state that played pivotal role in the initiation and declaration of this all important decision, we wish to mark the day for the fifth time across the country. Under the theme; Combating Non Communicable Diseases: Good Health is Your Choice. The AU Commission has indicated that Member States are expected to organize awareness-creation and advocacy programmes for the benefit of all communities. African Healthy Lifestyle Day has been commemorated over the past four years in most African countries since its adoption by the AU Executive Council in July 2008.
In Ghana, the last week of February 2013 has been set aside for activities nationwide not only to create awareness but also to get Ghanaians to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyle is the main cause of many non communicable diseases including hypertension, diabetes, cancers, chronic malnutrition, stroke, gout and many others. Non communicable diseases affect over 50% of our adult population and it is the leading cause of illness, disabilities and deaths among the adult population. These diseases pose a threat to the existence of all of us, thus threatening the sustainability of our hard-earned economic goals. Advocacy and awareness creation on healthy lifestyle in our various communities is seen as one of the main strategies for addressing these problems.
In Ghana the crusade started in 2005 and ever since we have been among the foremost in promoting healthy lifestyle as part of its health sector reforms within the sub-region. The Ghanaian brand of healthy lifestyle is known as Regenerative Health and Nutrition which is specially set up to focus on healthy lifestyle. The programme recommends four key interventions to healthy living programmes. These include:
• Healthy diets which has to do with increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, reducing or stopping alcohol intake.
• Exercise which has to do with increasing daily physical activity by exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week.
• Rest: adopting regular relaxation practices.
• Environmental sanitation: maintaining personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness.
We believe it is the desire of all to live long. However our daily lifestyles will not permit this desire to be met. Once we are out of our houses, we are exposed to all kinds of foods-fatty foods, salty foods and sugary foods. Though such foods are sumptuous and appetizing, they reduce our lifespan gradually. When you visit our hospitals today you realize that majority of the people are there because of diabetes, stroke, hypertension, arthritis, liver and kidney problems among others, which are all non communicable diseases. The question then is 'what are we doing to avert these illnesses since they are preventable?' The answer is simple; through the adoption of healthy lifestyle, through consuming lifelong healthy diets and engaging in physical activity, not forgetting regular medical checkups.
Engaging in a physical activity (exercise) builds our immune system, renews our strength and prevents diseases. Without exercise you lose strength and you get tired easily when you walk short distances or climb a staircase. This is a sign that you are losing your body strength which can eventually lead to lifestyle diseases and early death. Even though it is important, one does not necessarily need to join a keep-fit club or gym before they can exercise. We can at least do daily brisk walking, skipping or even simple stretch-up to keep us in shape.
Our environment also plays a vital role in determining the status of our health. The filth we create in our environment, especially the urban centres, exposes us to so many diseases. We litter everywhere, our houses, schools, beaches, markets etc. There is open defecation on our beaches and gutters, and our water bodies are polluted with natural and commercial waste. Despite all these, washing our hands with soap and water is a big problem for most of us, leading to diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhea.
Another cause of our ailment is the abuse of alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol abuse is a major source of concern, but what makes it worse is the fact that many people who abuse it also smoke tobacco, and some other go on to use marijuana, cocaine and others. The youth are most affected. It is therefore not surprising to find over 60% of the in-mates at the psychiatric hospital being the youth. These are issues which have dire consequences on the manpower base of the country.
On behalf of myself and the entire health sector I wish you a Happy Celebrations.
MS SHERRY AYITTEY
HON. MINISTER OF HEALTH