The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey SANHANES-1
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South Africa is undergoing a process of epidemiological transition from infectious to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). While the burden of infectious diseases such as HIV and TB remains high, there are now other emerging epidemics of NCDs. NCDs,
mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes represent a leading threat to human health and development. According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, these four diseases are the world's biggest killers, causing an estimated 35 million deaths each year 60% of all deaths globally with 80% in low- and middle-income countries (WHO, 2008). These diseases are preventable. Up to 80% of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and over a third of cancers could be prevented by eliminating shared risk factors, mainly tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. Unless addressed with urgency, the mortality and disease burden from these health problems will continue to increase in our country. There is therefore a great need for a better understanding of both the prevalence of NCDs and the associated risk factors among South Africans and a need to translate such information into effective health policies, health programmes and services. It is timely that the HSRC and its various partners including the Medical Research Council (MRC) and several South African universities have been able to come together and undertake this fundamental survey, the first South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES-1). Indeed, this survey report could not have come at a better time as we now begin the enormous task to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) system. It is also important to note that one of the Ten Point Plan actions for the Department of Health is the introduction of this type of survey that will assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in South Africa. The Government's Strategic Priority: 'Improve the health profile of all South Africans' requires a dedicated survey such as SANHANES-1 that addresses the National Department of Health's (NDoH) priority health indicators. The uniqueness of SANHANES-1 is its ability to integrate findings from personal interviews with standardised physical examinations, diagnostic procedures, and a variety of laboratory tests. The results provide information on a broad range of health topics and associated risk factors that were beyond the scope of previous Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). SANHANES-1 data will provide critical information for establishing national standards for weight, height, and blood pressure.