Coherence of food and agricultural policies with non-communicable disease prevention in South Africa
South Africa has one of the highest burdens of diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa. For example, 42% of women in the country and one-third of men are overweight or obese. This NCD burden is driven in part by high levels of consumption of ultra-processed food and low consumption of fruits and vegetables. The Government of South Africa passed a law in 2013 aimed at reducing salt content in processed food such as bread and cereals. In 2018 it introduced a 12% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas. Generally, these actions are guided by South Africa’s National NCD Prevention and Control Strategic Plan 2013-2017.
South Africa’s policies for addressing unhealthy diet/obesity are mainly health-sector driven, yet it is generally known that the policies that determine food availability and consumption largely lie outside the purview of the health sector. Rather, these policies fall within the domain of non-health sectors such as agriculture and trade. Therefore, there could be lack of coherence between health and non-health sector policies. For example, South Africa’s NCD prevention and control strategy has the explicit target of promoting local consumption of fruits and vegetables through subsidies, while its agriculture policies emphasize the production of fruits and vegetables for export.
Through policy mapping, supply-chain analysis, and qualitative methods, this study seeks to understand how agriculture and food (“agri-food”) policies may be made more coherent with policies that have public health and NCD prevention goals. It will also analyze the knowledge, attitudes, barriers, and enablers to fruit and vegetable consumption among various socioeconomic and gender groups in the country. The intent is to generate recommendations that will improve this coherence, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, and hence contribute to reducing the high burden of NCDs in South Africa