Emerging Early Actions for Bending the Curve in sub-Saharan Africa’s Nutrition Transition

April 1, 2016 - Author: Haggblade, S. Duodu, K.G., Kabasa, J.D., Minnaar, A., Ojijo, N.K.O. and Taylor, J.R.N.

Haggblade, S. Duodu, K.G., Kabasa, J.D., Minnaar, A., Ojijo, N.K.O. and Taylor, J.R.N. 2016. Emerging early actions for bending the curve in sub-Saharan Africa’s nutrition transition. Food and Nutrition Bulletin:1-23.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the last region to undergo a nutrition transition and can still avoid its adverse health outcomes.
Objective: The article explores emerging responses to bend the curve in sub-Saharan Africa’s nutrition transition to steer public health outcomes onto a healthier trajectory.
Methods: Early responses in 3 countries at different stages of food system transformation are examined: South Africa - advanced, Ghana - intermediate, and Uganda - early. By comparing these with international experience, actions are proposed to influence nutrition and public health trajectories as Africa’s food systems undergo rapid structural change.
Results: Arising from rapid urbanization and diet change, major public health problems associated with overweight are taking place, particularly in South Africa and among adult women. However, public health responses are generally tepid in sub-Saharan Africa. Only in South Africa have policy makers instituted extensive actions to combat overweight and associated noncommunicable diseases through regulation, education, and public health programs. Elsewhere, in countries in the early and middle stages of transition, public health systems continue to focus their limited resources primarily on undernutrition. Related pressures on the supply side of Africa’s food systems are emerging that also need to be addressed.
Conclusions: Three types of intervention appear most feasible: maternal and child health programs to simultaneously address short-term undernutrition problems while at the same time helping to reduce future tendencies toward overweight; regulatory and fiscal actions to limit access to unhealthy foods; and modernization of Africa’s agrifood food system through job skills training, marketing reforms, and food industry entrepreneurship.


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