The current average daily salt intake in Fiji is 11.7 grams, which is more than twice the World Health Organisation recommended level of five grams a day.
This, according to a collaborative research project by the Fiji National University that states a minimal government investment in reducing salt intake could prevent 234 heart attacks and 72 strokes, resulting in 131 Fijian lives saved, and saving the government nearly $2million each year.
The study – ‘The Potential Impact of Salt Reduction in Fiji’ – was carried out by Health Technology Analysts as part of a collaboration between the Pacific Research Centre for the Prevention of Obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases (C-POND), a WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention and Management at the Fiji Institute of Pacific Health Research (FIPHR), the research arm of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS) and leading Australian universities.
According to FNU, C-POND – which has received visibility and recognition by national and international authorities for its work on NCDs in Fiji and the Pacific region – worked with The George Institute (TGI) for Global Health, Deakin University and the University of Sydney to obtain Australian National Health and Medical Council funding on strengthening and monitoring food policy in the Pacific Islands.
This new report demonstrated that a minimal investment in a salt reduction program is likely to yield a positive social return on investment by reducing blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular diseases in Fiji.
Dr Gade Waqa, the Head of C-POND at the FNU’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences Research Unit, said this research project capitalised on the benefits of implementing salt reduction programs throughout Fiji, leading to the prevention of stroke and coronary heart disease (CHD) events.
“More than half of all strokes and CHD events are attributable to high blood pressure. Salt reduction is widely recognised as one of the most cost-effective means for preventing NCDs around the world and needs to be a priority for Fiji,” Dr Waqa said in a statement from the university.
Professor Jacqui Webster from The George Institute for Global Health was quoted in the same statement saying that the investment required was surprisingly small.
“To achieve these savings, the amount that the government in Fiji would need to spend is just $2.04 (FJD) per person per year,” she said.