By Lorraine Anyango.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) menace, must change fundamentally. Non-communicable diseases account for 30 to 50 percent of bed occupancy in hospitals in Kenya. This trend is perpetuated by obesity, being overweight, physical inactivity, and sedentary behavior.
These diseases are principally cardiovascular, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory conditions.
According to Kenya’s stepwise survey, for NCDs Risk factors 2015,28 percent of Kenyans aged between 18 to 69 are either obese or overweight, this percentage is significantly higher in women, standing at 38% while men at 17.5% of the population.
33% of women of reproductive age that is 15 to 49 years are obese, while the proportion of obese women is higher in urban areas, standing at 43% as compared to women in the rural areas accounting for 26%.
This reality framed the reasons why about 20 sub-county nutrition officers from Kisumu and Kakamega undertook five-day healthy diets and physical activities training. The training was filled with fun, much laughter but even better great lessons.
The training of trainers (TOT) was supported by USAID’s ‘Advancing Nutrition’ program currently being implemented in three counties in Kenya. The counties include Kisumu, Kakamega, and Kitui.
The five days were packed with exciting and engaging practicals on varied meal preparation methods, food diaries for specific target groups, conversation on food nutrients, and nutrition sampling of the food items practically after purchasing them at the local market.
“We have prepared Githeri using a fireless cooker, it was a way of preserving energy, it was fun sorting the maize and beans together, some of us were doing these for the first time and we can wait to go out and train the others.” Mrs. Rael Mwando, Kisumu County Nutrition coordinator said.
The participants prepared yogurt, and they learned and build the most garden as they ventured into food production through home gardening.
The team also had a good opportunity to learn the benefits of physical activities and was also taught how to develop a basic individual exercise plan as well as an assessment of health-related physical fitness.
They tried to push up as well as squat with both heels on the ground, some fell amidst laughter as they learned the importance of dedicating at least 2 hours, 30 mins weekly for moderate intensity aerobics activities such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling, and light weight training.
While taking the team through training, the National Coordinator for Health Diets and Lifestyles, Leila Odhiambo said that so far about 150 nutritionists have been trained countywide while emphasizing there is a need to cascade the training to the grassroots level so that a positive impact can be registered.
“The government has committed to global targets to reduce premature mortality due to NCDs by 25% by 2025. These targets included reduction of physical inactivity by 10%, reduction of salt intake by 30% and reduction of raised blood pressure by 25%, and 0% increase in diabetes and obesity.” Mrs. Odhiambo said.
She said that the country is heavily burdened with the management of non-communicable diseases hence its important for the training to be cascaded to reach the population to create a lasting impact.
“I call on counties to allocate resources to cascade this training to the communities” She emphasized.
Dr. Muthoni Gichu underscored the importance of regular physical activity saying that one doesn’t necessarily need to go to the gym but can employ simple exercises whether at home or work to keep away from sedentary behavior.
These include sitting for long hours, using motorized transport all through, watching television for long hours, passive video games, and playing on the computer among others.
“You need to sleep for at least 8 hours to be productive the next day, you need to have a consistent time when you go to bed and have early dinner so you don’t go to bed with a full stomach.” She said.
“We hope to train other nutritionists, health care workers, and facilities in charge in Kakamega on the importance of healthy diets after which we will embark on a wellness program for the people of Kakamega during which we will sensitize the populace to even grow kitchen gardens in every home.” Mrs Magret Oyugi, Nutrition coordinator Kakamega said.
Mrs. Mwando said that they were going to utilize the skills gained while offering counseling and guidance to clients at the community level as they gear towards a malnutrition-free county.
“We will do health education at the lowest level in such simple ways, showing communities the benefits of healthy diets.” Mrs. Mwando added.
” We have learned as nutritionists to live by example, We have been sitting for long hours as we do our work, and now we have learned to integrate physical activities even in the office for us to be healthy.” She said.
The trained officers are armed with the National guidelines for healthy diets and physical activity notebook and a trainers guide for the same.