Professor Karen Charlton

UOW to reduce salt intake in South Africa

UOW to reduce salt intake in South Africa

Highly competitive grant awarded by Resolve to Save Lives Awards

The University of Wollongong (UOW) has been awarded a highly competitive, two-year grant for $146,000 (US$100,000) to address the burden of excess salt intake in South Africa.

The project will encourage enforcement of mandatory sodium targets in processed foods by evaluating how well the food industry is complying with the targets and developing monitoring systems. UOW will partner with University of Pretoria, Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, Discovery Vitality and the George Institute for Global Health.

The grant program, part of the LINKS platform that connects people working to improve cardiovascular health around the world, is funded by Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, and managed by Resolve along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the CDC Foundation.

Resolve to Save Lives is a five-year, $225 million campaign funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gates Philanthropy Partners, which is funded with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation.

Karen Charlton, a Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at UOW’s School of Medicine and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, will lead the project.

“The epidemic of non-communicable diseases is increasingly burdening health systems in African countries. Prevention is key,” Professor Charlton said.

“This grant provides a welcome opportunity for our team to assess compliance of the food industry with mandated salt targets in South Africa and develop a monitoring framework with key stakeholders such as the South African Directorate of Food Control.

“Ensuring reformulation of foods to be lower in salt will have a large impact on improving population health.”

South Africa passed the mandated sodium regulations in 2016, with the goal of reducing average salt intake by .85 grams per person per day, and reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease by 11 per cent per year.

Excess salt intake causes high blood pressure and leads to heart attack, stroke and death. A recent analysis concluded that reducing salt consumption by 30 per cent globally could save 40 million lives over 25 years.

“Cardiovascular disease kills more people each year than all infectious diseases combined, but it remains neglected by many health systems and the global health community,” said Dr Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives.

“LINKS is connecting champions on the front lines of work in low- and middle-income countries and sharing lessons and resources to accelerate progress.”

This second round of grant funding will support government and civil society organisations working in 18 countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Georgia, Haiti, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Funded programs include a patient-centred hypertension screening and treatment program in Pakistan, and advocacy for effective regulation of trans fat in Kenya.