#EatLessSalt - a salt literacy campaign in Chandigarh, India

The George Institute for Global Health, India, in collaboration with the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the School of Public Health, PGIMER, has launched #EatLessSalt, a “Salt Literacy Campaign” in schools of the city of Chandigarh. The campaign aims to spread awareness and sensitize school children and their families on the harmful effects of excess salt in our diet.

As part of India's National Nutrition Week, the team will visit eight public schools in Chandigarh during National Nutrition Week from September 1 to 7, 2017 and students from 6th, 7th & 8th standard will be taught about the various aspects of consuming too much salt and its ill-effects.

The campaign was kicked off in Government Model High School, Sector 38-D and a pictorial module on salt literacy and a brochure on the campaign was launched on the occasion. Another sensitization session was held at Government Model High School, Sector 42-B, Chandigarh and the campaign will spread across the rest of the schools during the week. The pictorial presentation on the harmful effects of salt consumption was followed by group activities using theatre, skit, poster-making and debate.

Sh. B.L Sharma, IAS, Secretary, Education, Chandigarh Administration was the Chief Guest and Ms Harjinder Kaur, Chairperson, CCPCR was the Guest of Honour at the function. Others present on the occasion included Dr Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director, The George Institute for Global Health, Dr Rajesh Kumar, Dean, PGIMER and Dr Manmeet Kaur, Additional Professor, Health Promotion, PGIMER.

While launching the initiative, Sh. B.L Sharma, IAS, Secretary, Dept of Education, Chandigarh Administration. said:

"The campaign is very relevant for today’s times when one-fourth of the population below 30 years is having high blood pressure. Welcoming the campaign, he said that there was a need to educate children on the need for taking good diet and follow a good lifestyle for achieving good health"   

Speaking about the initiative, Dr Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director, The George Institute for Global Health, said:

“With this initiative, we aim to increase the knowledge of the harmful effects of salt among school children. We hope to bring about a behaviour change among the kids and indirectly also change the attitudes and behaviour of parents towards consumption of salt.”

Dr Rajesh Kumar, Dean, PGIMER, said:

"Salt is an important component of food but over consumption of salt leads to raised blood pressure which causes various chronic diseases like cardio-vascular disease, stroke, etc. Treatment cost is very high and therefore preventing the onset of chronic diseases is important. That is the reason we are launching this campaign to educate school children about the dangers of consuming more salt.”

Bibi Harjinder Kaur, Chairperson, CCPCR, said:

"The campaign was part of the Commission’s effort to spread awareness on nutrition among school children. As a child rights body, we are committed to upholding the rights of children and in that context she, said that eating less salt will help children inculcate a healthy lifestyle and avoid diseases in the future.    

Dr Manmeet Kaur, Additional Professor, Health Promotion, PGIMER, said:

"The aim of the campaign is to increase the knowledge of salt among school children and also acquaint them with practical measures to reduce salt consumption.  The campaign module, she said, was evidence-based and has been developed based on similar experience of the George Institute in China. The campaign will help children to take the message to their families”.  

Based on the results and the response of the pilot project, the collaborative group will scale it up and put together a one-year intervention programme for salt reduction among school children in Chandigarh.

Excess intake of sodium has been a major contributor to the rising incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases in India. Salt consumption in India is much more than the WHO recommended 5 mg/day levels and reduction in the consumption of salt requires a multi-stakeholder effort.

The George Institute organised a multi-stakeholder salt summit in New Delhi in February 2017. One of the recommendations that emerged from the summit was to tackle the unhealthy eating practices through a healthy diet and nutrition campaign that looks at health in a continuum and takes into account emerging data relating to excessive use of salt and hypertension among children.