Salt Awareness & Hypertension Management in the African & Caribbean Population Forum
By Carly Schnabl, on 7 April 2011
Dr Derin Balogun, Founding Director of Heart Campaign reports on the “Salt Awareness & Hypertension Management in the African & Caribbean Population” discussion forum that was hosted on 24th March 2011 by Heart Campaign in partnership with UCL. The event was chaired by Professor Morris Brown (FMedSci), Professor of Clinical Pharmacology from the University of Cambridge.
The panel speakers for this event consisted of esteemed representatives from three pertinent sectors: Dr Ellie Cannon (NHS GP in an inner London Practice with a population of 10,000), Patrick Williams (Celebrity Chef and author of “The Caribbean Cook”) and Diane Abbott MP (Shadow Minister for Public Health, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington).
After a brief opening introduction by Professor Brown elaborating the issue of hypertension in relation to the African and Caribbean community and responsibility of medical practitioners, Dr Derin Balogun, Founding Director of Heart Campaign, outlined research regarding the salt levels of food obtained from various African and Caribbean restaurants in London with recommendations as to how to move forward. The full study can be found here: Shocking levels of salt in African and Caribbean foods.
In response to the research findings, Dr Cannon provided insight into the difficulties underlying healthy lifestyle recommendations in regards to both patient receptiveness and efficacy of general advice in highly culturally diverse communities. To complement this, Mr Williams emphasised the need to reduce reliance on processed seasonings and questioned the reasons underlying the tendency to excessively add salt in Caribbean cooking. As a way to illustrate his points and as a treat for all guests, Mr Williams had also provided a delicious range of African and Caribbean food with minimal quantities of salt and no added processed seasoning. Ms Abbott gave her personal perspective about diseases endemic in the African and Caribbean population and the necessity of ‘culturally literate’ public information resources relevant to ethnic minorities.
The liveliest portion of the event was the Question and Answer session, during which a number of key issues were raised and solutions were formulated. These ranged from the potential ramifications of the newly introduced GP Consortia and the often reactive style of health education, to the difference between using table salt and sea salt in cooking.
In closing, the speakers outlined the duties and responsibilities expected of general practitioners, food manufacturers and government bodies in providing education and frameworks to address the problems highlighted. Their recommendations included the development of culturally relevant nutritional sheets with dietary advice for use as an adjunct in medical consultations, implementation and enforcement of stricter food labelling regulations, and raising awareness through long-term public campaigns.
The final message highlighted the importance of obtaining concrete empirical evidence to provide a foundation for change, such as Heart Campaign’s study which has turned an assumption into fact.
Watch a video of the event here: