Tajikistan develops strategy to tackle nutrition, diet and related noncommunicable diseases
Addressing the primary cause of mortality
In Tajikistan, like in the majority of countries in the Region, nutrition-related health problems and foodborne diseases represent a considerable public health burden. Undernutrition is still a serious but least addressed health problem. The human and economic costs are enormous, falling hardest on the poor and on women and children. Cardiovascular disease is indisputably the main cause of death in Tajikistan – accounting for 39% of total deaths. This is related to the high salt intake in the diet together with the high level of trans fats.
In addition, overweight is becoming more important in Tajikistan and is a key risk factor causing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases among 28% women - 42% of those are of reproductive age.
A multisectoral national strategy in the making
Tajikistan started work on a national strategy to address these challenges in January 2011. The strategy focusing on two key issues:
- the double burden of malnutrition (stunting, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight)
- prevention of foodborne diseases and nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases
The Nutrition and Food Safety Strategy for Tajikistan (2012-2020) is developed to establish nutrition and food safety goals and provide a coherent set of integrated actions, spanning different government sectors and involving public and private actors and to be considered in the national policies and health system governance.
Suggested actions and ambitious goals
The suggested actions include improving nutrition and food safety in early life, ensuring a safe, healthy and sustainable food supply, provision of capacity building and education to citizens and consumers, integrating actions to address the burden of foodborne diseases and nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases, strengthening surveillance, prevention and control of foodborne and nutrition related diseases in Tajikistan for the period of 2012-20.
The result is an impressive, comprehensive programme – a strategy which focuses on delivering a minimum food supply to families, eradicating malnutrition without hindering progress in combatting NCDs and linking up poverty and equity.
Ambitious goals include developing national programmes to improve nutrition and food safety capacity in the health sector, promoting breastfeeding and appropriate and safe complementary feeding practices and educating and training on proper and hygienic farm practices. In addition, national surveillance and monitoring system on nutritional status are to be implemented together with food availability and consumption in different age and socio-economic groups. Further initiatives include strengthening surveillance systems for foodborne and zoonotic diseases and for microbial and chemical hazards at targeted points of the food chain. With regard to NCDs, the strategy aims to develop a set of initiatives to address diet related NCDs within the framework of the WHO “best-buys” approach namely in the field of salt and trans fatty acids.
The final draft is currently being discussed with government counterparts as well as international organizations. The strategy is the result of a truly multisectoral effort at country governmental level coupled with combined efforts namely of WHO, UNICEF, World Food Programme, the World Bank, USAID and NGOs. The strategy will be submitted for approval at highest government level in late 2012.