Statistics in this report trigger concern at the amount of salt we are eating in home-made meals, street food and products bought from convenience stores.
About one third of Thais suffer ailments due to high salt and sodium consumption, and each year 20,000 of them die from one of four main related diseases – high blood pressure, stroke, coronary artery disease and kidney disease. These non-communicable diseases (NCDs) cost the country huge economic losses totalling about Bt99 billion per year.
The figures are both depressing and alarming, and reveal we are losing vast human resources prematurely.
I agree with the Low Salt Thailand Network, academics and health advocates who want a tax on high-sodium food products that would reduce Thais’ salt consumption and encourage them to buy low-sodium food products at cheaper prices.
However, it will be at least two or three years before the new regulation comes into force since food producers will need time to adjust their recipes, labelling and marketing.
So during this time, what can we do to help reduce the huge number of cases of high blood pressure (13.2 million people) and kidney disease (7.6 million people) and other NCDs (1.2 million people) due to high salt consumption?
The government should fund and promote integrated basic healthcare to cut our consumption of salt, but also sweet, fatty and over-seasoned foodstuffs. The national approach should include a public awareness campaign tied with medical care and advice at clinics and hospitals nationwide. This “recipe” for healthy living has achieved impressive results in developed countries, where public health policy also discourages smoking and too much drinking while promoting a nutritious diet that balances the five main food groups, and regular exercise.
Such a national approach is a powerful way to reduce NCD risk and also lower the country’s healthcare budget.