By Chioma Ndife
To create awareness and reduce the incidence of sudden death arising from cardio-vascular diseases, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has trained journalists from the five states of the South-East on effective reporting of trans fats.
The two-day training organised in conjunction with the Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED) in Enugu was funded by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI).
The training was facilitated by local and international public health, media, and communications experts; including Joy Amafah, country director of the GHAI; Dr. Jerome Mafeni, executive director of Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED) and Dr. Eva Edwards of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) who shared information on the status of the NAFDAC regulations on trans fats.
The journalists, numbering 19, were drawn from print, broadcast, and online media from Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo states.
The training module targeted building the capacity of Nigerian journalists to understand and exhaustively report on TFAs and its link with poor health for consumers, strengthening the relationship between Nigerian journalists, civil society advocating a trans fat-free Nigeria and the regulatory agency (ies), particularly NAFDAC, and Sharing knowledge about local, national, and global issues relating to TFAs and the oils and fats industry.
Speaking at the training, the Enugu State Commissioner for Health, Professor Ikechukwu Obi, explained that the goal of this training was in sync with the visions of the Enugu State Government for a healthy citizenry as espoused in its Health sector reform law which provided a legal framework for citizen participation in health sector.
The commissioner noted that the high levels of trans fat in foods consumed by Nigerians, especially from fast food joints that were in the habit of reusing oils, meant that the nation was sitting on a keg of gun powder that might explode at any time in form of cardio-vascular disease of many kinds.
He revealed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2021 reported that cardio-vascular diseases were the leading cause of deaths globally and that a year earlier, an estimated 17.9 million people died from cardio-vascular diseases, representing 32% of all global deaths.
According to him, of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke, even as he added that if there was anything that public health advocates learnt in the fight against COVID-19, it was the realization that working together, challenges that threaten the collective well-being of the citizenry could be overcome.
He also commended NAFDAC for approving the Trans Fats and Oils Regulation 2019 and the Pre-Packaged Foods, Water, and Ice Labelling Regulations, 2019, insisting that once the regulations were gazetted, Nigeria would leapfrog into the list of countries that had emplaced effective regulations to limit or eliminate trans fats in the diets of her citizens.
Earlier in his remarks, CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, explained that the training was informed by the need to build the capacity of the media to play effective roles in reporting trans fats and amplifying the work of the Trans fat-free Nigeria coalition.
Oluwafemi explained that what was consumed should be everyone’s business, hence the importance of a well-informed media in getting the right message to ordinary Nigerians and policy makers to elicit the change that the #Transfatfree Nigeria coalition craved for.