World Health Organization Regional Office of the Western Pacific
The Mekong Countries: Targeting CVD prevention, control & management
LAOS, VIETNAM & CAMBODIA
- Cambodia is planning to develop a salt reduction strategy with a clear set of actions, requesting support from WHO CC.
- Laos plans to develop a National Action Plan for Salt reduction this year.
- Vietnam hopes to further develop their salt reduction strategy, gaining further support to scale up initiatives to a national level.
- The WHO CC at the George Institute are supporting the Ministry of Health in the Mekong region to develop, implement and strengthen initiatives to address their growing burden of CVDs.
- The Mekong Countries, consisting of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are all experiencing a double burden of disease. Previous WHO studies (STEP data) have shown an increasing prevalence of hypertension over the past two decades across the three countries, currently sitting at a prevalence of 25, 27 and 32% in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, respectively.
- At the start of the year WHO CC conducted their second inter-country training using the WHO SHAKE The Salt Habit Package.
- The aim of this meeting and training was to share country experiences and plans for the implementation of CVD prevention, control and management initiatives.
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are all at different stages of a salt reduction programme. The WHO CC supported training over three days and facilitated conversations between members from each country in salt reduction planning, implementation and goal setting. Three presentations covered the importance and evidence for the effectiveness of population salt reduction, the SHAKE The Salt Habit Interventions and the importance of monitoring and evaluating a salt reduction programme. There was also a focus on learning from other countries who have already implemented a salt reduction programme and how the successful points from these programmes could be adapted to suit the Mekong countries and their own specific regions.
Vietnam has developed a salt reduction strategy in line with the 5 key action areas outlined in the SHAKE package. The Vietnam National Nutrition Centre is prominent in implementation and conduction of pilot studies, on the third day of training the group visited the centre to see how salt reduction messages are translated to their patients and to get a blood pressure check. It also gave the centre the opportunity to present on their salt reduction interventions including the reformulation of foods marketed to children to contain less salt, however they stressed the need for more support to scale up the project and drive industry action.
Over the three days’ participants from each country got the opportunity to learn from the WHO CC presentations and from each other. It raised further questions and emphasised the need for countries to develop strategies with detailed action plans and milestones to be monitored and evaluated. Barriers were discussed, trained human resources are lacking across the three countries and there is a need for governmental support along with support from WHO to implement the programmes in the absence of other funds.
From the first training session in 2015 there remains a need to assess the feasibility of a locally produced salt substitute, a tailored communications package and a meeting to further discuss food reformulation with the use of salt substitutes.