MAURITIUS —The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that Mauritius has made great progress in its ongoing fight against noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

This finding was revealed at the presentation of the Mauritius Acceleration Plan to Stop Obesity 2024–2030 on April 25 by the Stakeholders’ Roundtable on Actions to Accelerate Obesity Prevention and Management.

This is a clear indication of the country’s will to combat the epidemic of NCDs, which account for 80% of the disease burden and 85% of deaths. 

The initiative , which aims to reduce obesity incidence by 5% across all age categories by 2030, was developed over three days at a symposium in Balaclava, Mauritius.

The multisectoral event, organized by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) in collaboration with the WHO Mauritius Country Office, brought together approximately 100 stakeholders from government, the private sector, civil society, and academia to develop a series of concrete actions to combat the obesity epidemic, which affects 36.2% of the Mauritian population.

Participants in the roundtable agreed on the need to address obesity, which is a major risk factor for a variety of NCDs, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer.

Speaking at the roundtable, Zainab Tourabally of the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Mauritius’ Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences stated that this roadmap comes at an appropriate time, as combating obesity requires a whole-of-society approach.

She said that additional data on the barriers and enablers behind existing and desired outcomes is needed to better understand the necessary cultural shift.

The Mauritius Acceleration Plan to Combat Obesity 2024–2030 will now be presented to Cabinet for approval.

If the plan is approved, it will be carried out using the “100-day sprint” technique, a five-phase methodology designed by the World Health Organization to assist its implementation.

Using an evidence-based approach, the obesity roadmap proposes a wide range of policy measures—political, fiscal, and legal—to combat what is known as the obesogenic environment, which promotes unhealthy lifestyles.

Obesity is also having a significant financial impact on the country, with the direct and indirect costs of obesity and overweight estimated to be around Rs 18.1 billion, or 2.78% of GDP in 2019. 

According to forecasts by the Global Obesity Observatory, the economic costs associated to obesity and overweight could rise to 4.6% and 8.89% of GDP by 2030 and 2060, respectively.

The Mauritius Acceleration Plan to Stop Obesity 2024–2030 included recommendations for regulating the marketing of unhealthy food, incentivizing local food production, increasing taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages, encouraging physical activity, integrating and scaling up obesity prevention and management health services, and launching a community-wide behavioural change communication campaign.

Meetali Badhain of the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry praised the participation of private sector actors in the roundtable and expressed hope that the MCCI will continue to play an active role in the process.

“We are a key stakeholder and would like to contribute to combatting obesity. But it can’t be limited to taxes and bans; a new culture needs to be created involving different lifestyles. This long-term plan should be embedded in the actions of all stakeholders.”

A team of WHO experts in fiscality, statistics, public health law, nutrition, and food safety hosted the stakeholders’ roundtable meeting.

The stakeholders’ roundtable was facilitated by a team of WHO experts in the fields of fiscality, data, public health law, nutrition and food safety.

The WHO’s Division of UHC/Healthier Populations and Division of Data, Analytics, and Delivery for Impact will work together to implement the roadmap.

This follows the country’s significant accomplishments in tobacco control, where in 2023, Mauritius became only the third country in the world to embrace all of the WHO’s MPOWER initiatives to reduce tobacco use at the best practice level.

In her comment on tobacco control, WHO Representative Dr Anne Ancia highlighted Mauritius’ tobacco control experience as a potential foundation for further public health gains, noting that their political will, as well as know-how, will accelerate the fight against NCD risk factors in a multisectoral and holistic manner.

She went on to remark that this obesity roundtable demonstrates Mauritius’ commitment to addressing the NCD problem, and obesity presents another opportunity to replicate this expertise and spend the necessary willpower to address other NCD risk factors, such as undesirable diets.

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