Motsoaledi takes aim at alcohol adverts, smoking
Business Day - Feb 20th 2012, 08:39
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is on a crusade and he expects to make no friends as he targets liquor advertising, tougher smoking laws and noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
His campaign will include intervention in Parliament to combat the burgeoning waistlines of some MPs.
Dr Motsoaledi said at a news conference on Friday that he wanted a ban on liquor advertising and that a draft bill was ready for gazetting for public comment. He would not "relent on banning alcohol advertising".
He criticised trends in alcohol advertising that showed beautiful people and sports stars promoting liquor and in the process teaching the youth it was "cool to drink".
When asked why the drafting of the bill had taken more than a year since it was first mooted, he said it was not something that could simply be imposed on the country and that the message had to be built slowly to get people to agree.
" I have targets for the reduction of both alcohol consumption and smoking and this year we are going to be tightening the space in the fight against tobacco products and alcohol consumption," Dr Motsoaledi said.
"We have to deal with the scourge of alcohol advertising where this is projected as a product bringing success."
On the issue of the food available to MPs in Parliament, he said the availability of food was a career hazard for elected public representatives.
Food was available at parliamentary committee meetings and there was even food at press conferences, often of dubious dietary value, he said.
Dr Motsoaledi said he intended to try to change this.
He is targeting the noncommunicable diseases that result from obesity, "which continue to be a serious public health challenge facing us".
"At the centre of all this is the critical issue of prevention. Already, work is being done in the areas of regulating salt and trans-fats in food. These two are well known as key causes of many of these diseases," he said.
Statistics SA’s mortality report for 2009 indicated that deaths from these conditions all increased despite an overall 3,8% decline in mortality.
The Medical Research Council of SA estimated that 6,3-million South Africans suffered from high blood pressure, with salt intake widely cited as a major contributor, and the condition was managed in only 14% of cases.
At issue is the cost to the state of treating these diseases. Dr Motsoaledi said it had been estimated that in some Caribbean countries the incidence of diabetes was up to 40%, and that a similar situation in SA would be a public health disaster.
On the issue of conditions in public health institutions, he said: "Quality of care in our facilities continues to be a huge challenge facing us." He said a number of initiatives were under way to deal with this problem. "It is very worrisome and not good at all."
Dr Motsoaledi said audits of facilities had been conducted. "To date, 3336 have been completed out of 4200."
He said improvements would begin in "four districts and 214 facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape".
Last week, Dr Motsoaledi told the South African National Editors Forum that he planned to tackle the negative perceptions of the standards and quality of primary healthcare facilities, saying greater utilisation of clinics, alongside a campaign against diseases caused by poor lifestyles, could reduce pressure on overburdened hospitals.
Hospitals that should deal with "serious cases" were being "overloaded" as more than half of patients had minor problems that could be treated at a primary level, he said.
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