Everyone should eat five types of fruit and vegetables every day for better health. However, about 90 per cent of the population of Bangladesh don’t consume the required five portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables on an average.
Experts on nutrition and rights activists said that the consumption of fresh vegetables, exercise and physical activity are necessary for prevention of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
The local government institutions have an important role to play in ensuring a conducive physical environment and the supply of fresh vegetables and fruits. However, the existing local government laws and policies don’t address the issue of non-communicable disease prevention properly, they added.
Against this backdrop, the experts and the rights activists called for formulating a comprehensive policy to ensure the involvement of local government institutions in the prevention of non-communicable diseases.
Talking to the Bangladesh Post, Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam, a rights activist, informed that it was found in a study that the issue of fresh vegetables was not addressed properly in 31 laws and policies of 11 ministries.
According to the study, a total of 89.6 percent of the country’s population don’t consume the required five servings of fruit and vegetables every day on an average. However, the lives of 2.7 million people can be saved every year if enough vegetables and fruits are consumed.
The Center for Law and Policy Affairs (CLPA) and the ARK Foundation carried out the study in 25 districts in the country. According to the study, there is no gymnasium in 17 districts. Out of 22 districts, only two districts have swimming pools. A total of 501 primary and secondary government schools don’t have any playground.
Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam said that the local government bodies have no specific budget for physical activity or exercise. He said that alongside the safe diet, it is necessary to make arrangement of physical exercise in order to prevent the non-communicable diseases. This can be ensured through urban planning, infrastructure development, budget allocation and proper law enforcement, he opined.
Dr Rumana Haque, a professor at Economics Department of Dhaka University and Chief Executive of the ARK Foundation, said that we have to give more importance to disease prevention than treatment and the Covid-19 is providing us this message.
She said that treatment of non-communicable diseases is extremely costly. “We need to prevent non-communicable diseases through dietary changes and physical activity. This will reduce the cost of treatment and the death which will be able to play a major role in the country’s economy,” she said.
The DU professor called upon the authorities concerned to formulate a comprehensive policy under the local government division in order to tackle the burden of the non-communicable diseases.
Gaus Piari, Director of environmental platform WBB Trust, said that the non-communicable diseases are the most prominent cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The developed countries in most cases have already undertaken policies to address the challenges posed by the diseases. The non-communicable diseases are emerging as major cause of morbidity and mortality in many developing countries, including Bangladesh. So, policy is needed in Bangladesh, she added.
Experts said that in order to implement the SDG goals, we need to reduce non-communicable disease deaths by 30% by 2030.