– As NHF unveils study result on physical activity in Nigeria
Leading health experts, including Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole; Emeritus Professor, O. O. Akinkugbe and distinguished cardiologist, Dr Kingsley K. Akinroye, have said that decreased physical activity, sedentary behaviour, unhealthy dietary patterns, as well as smoking and consumption of alcohol, are major reasons for the steep rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in developing countries, including Nigeria.
The experts, who spoke at the recent launch of the 2016 Nigerian Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, organised by the Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) and held at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, unanimously agreed that rapid changes in the lifestyle of Nigerians due to globalisation and urbanisation is the major cause of these lifestyle-related diseases, which are increasingly becoming significant causes of death and disability in the country.
Speaking at the event, Prof. Akinkugbe, who was a past president of NHF said that, globally, populations are increasingly facing lifestyle-related health risks due to rising prevalence of physical inactivity, adding that this is impacting on the health of the nation’s population and resulting in a shift to a growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
NCDs, Akinkugbe said, lead to tens of millions of death every year, the majority of which occur during the most productive years, disclosing that the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2030 is a roadmap that provides policies and interventions to realise targets and reduce premature deaths.
He stated further that the recommendation of WHO is that children and youth aged five to 17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity; while adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, noting that the aim is to achieve the global target of 10 per cent relative reduction in the prevalence of insufficient physical activity by 2025.
Professor Akinkugbe noted that it was in recognition of the growing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in Nigeria and the need to achieve the NCD global target on physical activity that the NHF embarked on the Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth project, adding that the report card is a tool to provide opportunities for research, guidelines, advocacy and priority actions on the promotion of physical activity in Nigeria.
The erudite professor disclosed that, to achieve these objectives, the NHF worked with partners from universities, research institutes, civil society organisations and sports academies to produce the report card in 2013 and the latest edition in 2016.
He expressed profound appreciation to the Federal Ministry of Health and the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole for contributions to the production of the document.
In his keynote address at the event, Minister of Health, Prof. Adewole, who was represented by Dr Michael Ugbeye, said that NCDs accounted for 27 percent of the total deaths in Nigeria in 2008, adding that it is well documented that unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful alcohol intake and physical inactivity are the major clustering factors for the development of CVDs and other NCDs.
“These risk factors are aggravated by poor awareness, harmful cultural practices and misconception by the public,” he said.
The minister added that WHO classifies physical inactivity as the fourth leading cause of global mortality and one of the greatest health challenges and determinants of NCDs, noting that it is now recognised that sedentary behaviours are independently associated with adverse health outcomes.
While congratulating the NHF and their collaborators for producing the Report Card, the health minister urged the Ministry of Youths & Sports, the National Sports Institute and other stakeholders to be part of this important campaign for a healthy lifestyle.
He promised that the Federal Ministry of Health and other policymakers would take the outcomes and recommendations from the Report Card into consideration in making relevant decisions and in establishing strategic frameworks and guideline on the control and prevention of NCDs in Nigeria.
While presenting an overview of the 2016 Nigerian Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth to dignitaries at the occasion, Dr Kingsley K. Akinroye, a distinguished cardiologist and executive director, NHF, explained that lifestyle-related diseases, that is, NCDs and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancer and chronic lung disease, are becoming major causes of disability and death in Nigeria and other developing countries.
Dr Akinroye stated further that despite the paucity of data on physical activity in Nigeria, the Technical Report Committee, which carried out the study, focused on physical activity as a major determinant of NCDs, in view of the scientific evidence that regular activity from childhood and youth has strong positive impacts on health throughout life.
The Report Card initiative, Dr Akinroye noted, provided an opportunity for the committee to make use of the latest scientific evidence on physical activity to lay a foundation for placing physical activity at the forefront of public health policies and programmes like other recognised risk factors for NCDs.
The NHF executive director stressed that the Nigerian report card is modelled after the Canadian Report Card – the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report – that has been in use for years as an advocacy tool to promote awareness, policy, research and communication, while expressing the hope that the report would initiate a thrust for action on the pivotal role of physical activity in the promotion of the health of Nigerians especially in the fight against NCDs.
Dignitaries at the event included Dr Sunny Kuku, president, Nigerian Non-communicable Disease Alliance; Mr Martins Akhigbemidu, deputy director, NAFDAC, who represented Mrs Yetunde Oni, acting DG of NAFDAC; and Dr Femi Olugbile, former permanent secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health.