The Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira has said reducing malnutrition in Ghana is a political choice which government must make to facilitate sustainable national development.
This, he said, calls for a multi-sectoral focus, driven by a political will that acknowledges the integral role that nutrition plays in ensuring a healthy population and productive work force for stable economic growth.
Dr Appiah-Denkyira said this in Accra on Wednesday during a nutrition forum organized by the Ghana Civil Society Organizations Coalition for Scaling Up Nutrition (GCSOCSUN).
The event was on the theme: “Nutrition for growth: examining Ghana’s preparedness to Scale Up Nutrition”.
Dr Appiah-Denkyira said nutrition is a human right, which forms the basis for economic, social and human development, declaring that good nutrition throughout is a pre-requisite to good health.
He said an optimal nutrition ensures the proper development of a child’s brain and body cells, enabling them to grow into productive adults who could contribute to the development of the society.
Dr Appiah-Denkyira said the health and general well-being of pregnant women and those in their reproductive years, not only determines the health of a child, but it predisposes them to weakened resistance to illness throughout their lifetime and inhibits full intellectual ability.
He said Ghana currently experiences a rise in diet related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, some cancers, kidney and liver complications attributed to poor dietary practices such as consumption of food low in fibre and high in salt, fats and sugars.
Dr Appiah-Denkyira said the impact of poor nutrition on the economy was broad, not exclusive to health cost, but to the overall productivity of the nation and without deliberate and concerted efforts, these losses would worsen over the next 10 years.
He said: “A significant investment to scale up nutrition interventions in Ghana would result in the massive numbers of lives saved, increased ability to learn and substantial economic productivity gains.
“Attainment of these social and economic gains will contribute immensely to accelerating national development in Ghana and creating wealth through health.”
The Director General said the formation of the Cross Sectoral Planning Group and its working committees for planning, policy, monitoring and evaluation, capacity development, resource mobilization and communication were bringing people and institutions together to tackle the challenges in a concerted effort.
Dr Mrs Edith Tetteh, Vice Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission who chaired the function, said the nation was highly prepared to meet the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ target.
Mr Kwabena Appiah Pinkrah, Member of Parliament for Akrofuom and Co-Chair of Ghana Parliamentarians Against Hunger and Malnutrition, said without the political will the battle against poverty would be lost.
Nana Ayim Poakwah, Coordinator of GCSOCSUN, said Ghana has currently developed a national nutrition policy which would officially be endorsed soon.