Implementation of a population-wide program to reduce salt/sodium consumption in Costa Rica

SUMMARY:

Population-wide salt reduction initiatives which target sodium levels in foods and consumer education have the potential to reduce salt intake across all sectors, thus improving cardiovascular health outcomes and saving millions of Costa Rican “colones” to the social security system. When beginning this study, there were several challenges to sodium reduction in Costa Rica, a middle income country, including lack of: 1) baseline sodium intake data and its main sources; 2) information related to the levels of sodium in processed and prepared foods; 3) consumer awareness about salt and its health effects; 4) sodium reduction targets in processed foods; and 5) standardized and regulated nutrition labeling. This project builds on the implementation of the National Plan to Reduce the Consumption of Salt/ Sodium in the Population of Costa Rica 2011-2021, published in May 2011. The overall objective of this project was to generate scientific evidence and tools to sensitize stakeholders, built capacity, support the implementation of related policies and reducing the consumption of salt / sodium in the population of Costa Rica through interventions.

The project consisted of a public health program, officially declared of public and national interest, which includes the execution of various types of research and the transference of activities that converge in achieving the reduction in the consumption of salt and sodium in the population, as well as improving the environment by offering healthier foods. The evidence generated during the project had extensive implementation and significant impact on decision-making at the international (ex. incorporation of commercial condiments in the PAHO regional goals for sodium reduction) and national level (ex. creation of the national goal for the sodium reduction strategy and action plan for NCD). Moreover, the Program contributed to the awareness of the population of the risks of high salt intakes through the transfer of knowledge in promoting and supporting the implementation of new research and the discussion of the topic in forums. This has enabled the project team a better understanding of the situation, of the interrelationships and national and international trends. In addition, the program team has grown and demonstrated their leadership of the subject, knowledge generation and creation of tools in this area.

The project team has supported emerging and innovative studies such as: 1) The establishment of the baseline level of sodium in processed foods with regional goals thorough a Latin American Survey; 2) Improving the quality of sodium analyzes of foods in national laboratories; and 3) the estimation of the contribution to the diet of sugar from sweetened beverages.

The achievements and efforts of the Program team during the implementation of this project resulted in two international awards: the “Notable-Achievement 2014 Award Reducing Salt in the Diet” by the World Hypertension League and the appointment of “Women of Impact” in the celebration World Women’s day 2016 by IDRC.

The challenge was to continue advancing the national plans and to coordinate the interdisciplinary work of five Latin American countries, in order to reduce sodium consumption in the region. This will be possible thanks to the new financial support from IDRC, who approved the consortium project: “Scaling-up and evaluating salt reduction policies and programs in Latin American Countries”. This is a good opportunity to improve, scale-up and align public policies in different countries of the region, and thus achieve a greater impact on the health of the population.

 

COUNTRY:

Costa Rica

 

MAIN THEME:

1. Intersections between food security and food systems for NCD-prevention and healthy diets

 

OTHER RELATED THEMES:

6. Building Research Infrastructure for the study of food systems

 

NEEDS AND CHALLENGES:

To publish results. Maintain contracted human resources that gained knowledge and experience

 

PROJECT DURATION AND EXPECTED DUE DATE:

42 months | September 30, 2016

 

RESEARCH TEAM:

PI: Adriana Blanco-Metzler :: ablanco@inciensa.sa.cr

Marielos Montero, Hilda Nuñez, Flory Alfaro (all from INCIENSA), Branka Legetic (ex PAHO-WDC), Mary LÁbbe & JoAnne Arcand (Univ. Toronto). Elizabeth Dunford (The George Institute, Australia) and Katrina Heredia, Nazareth Cubillo, Rafael Claro (hired by the project)

 

PROJECT SUPPORTED BY:

IDRC, INCIENSA, MOH, UofToronto, PAHO-WDC

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