SOME public health experts have called on the media to play an agenda-setting role to influence policies and regulations that will contribute to the elimination of Trans-Fat Acids (TFA) in the country.

They made the call in Abuja on Thursday at a two-day “Journalists, Digital Media Training on Trans-Fat Reporting,” organized by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and Trans-Fat Free Nigeria.

Dr Salisu Abubakar of Nutrition and Dietetics Unit, Biochemistry Department and Africa Centre of Excellence for Population Health and Policy, Bayero University Kano (BUK), said that the media’s role in actualizing trans-fat free Nigeria was imperative.

He defined trans-fat as unsaturated fatty acids that come from either natural or industrial sources. Naturally-occurring trans-fat come from ruminants (cows and sheep).

According to him, industrially-produced trans-fat are formed in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, converting the liquid into solid, resulting in “partially hydrogenated oil.

“Approximately 540,000 deaths can be attributed to the intake of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids annually.

“High trans-fat intake increases the risk of death from any cause by 34 percent, coronary heart disease deaths by 28 per cent, and coronary heart disease by 21 percent.

“This is likely due to the effect on lipid levels: trans-fat increases (“bad”) cholesterol levels while lowering (“good”) cholesterol levels. Trans-fat has no health benefit.

“So, there is an urgent need for action/setting agenda to influence policies and regulations that will contribute to the elimination of trans-fat in Nigeria.

“In addition, the role of media in setting agenda for the actualization of Trans-Fat Free Nigeria cannot be overemphasized.”

Hema Kahanchandani of Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), called for immediate gazetting and full enforcement of TFA regulation in Nigeria.

Kahanchandani recalled that in 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO), called for the global elimination of industrially-produced TFA by 2023 through what it called the “Replace Action Framework”.

She added that the framework was designed as a roadmap for countries to implement prompt, complete and sustained elimination of industrially-produced TFA from food supply.

“In Nigeria, there were approximately 854,000 estimated deaths in 2019, of which, approximately 137,000 were attributed to cardiovascular deaths and 3,229 attributed to TFA-related cardiovascular deaths,’’ she said.

Laura Rodriguez, Digital Communication Expert of Global Wave Digital, urged media practitioners to use online and mobile tools to engage relevant policy and decision-makers to achieve trans-fat free in the country.

She noted that “participating journalists should plan a branded day of action to call on policymakers for action, complete with media outreach, social media content, influencer engagement, live/offline events, and more.

“They should also follow digital channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and actively monitor the hashtag — #TransfatfreeNigeria.

“This will help to keep track of campaign updates and identify individuals for interviews, as well as creating Twitter lists for Trans Fat-Free Nigeria campaign.

“It will allow you to keep campaign spokespeople, NAFDAC, other key decision-makers and others,’’ she said.(NAN)

Source: Real News Magazine

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