Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Rapid urbanization has brought about drastic changes in the diet and lifestyle of Senegalese people. Compared to rural habits, the urban lifestyle is considerably more sedentary and the incorporation of more processed foods and less healthy cooking practices has led to an increase in diet and lifestyle related diseases. Leading diseases include hypertension (high blood pressure) that affects 30 percent of the population, obesity that affects an equal proportion, hypercholesterolemia that affects just under 40 percent of Senegalese and diabetes that affects about 2 percent of the population. These diseases impose considerable ongoing expenses on the local population – a problem that is compounded when poverty and poor health care systems are taken into account.
Although these diseases can be fatal and their treatment expensive, they can be prevented and resolved through dietary changes. In fact, the traditional African diet is composed of natural and local foods that provide the nutritional base for good health. However, Senegalese city dwellers prefer and aspire to foreign, processed imports. In addition, more modern but unhealthy food is cheaply available on the streets, thus disincentivizing the preparation and consumption of healthier, local alternatives. Although doctors and nutritionists could play a leading role in promoting dietary changes and the consumption of healthier local foods, they have not stepped up to play a part in this potentially transformative movement. They tend to provide pharmaceutical solutions or play an advisory role, providing medical prescriptions and healthy living tips for the most part. Moreover, the specialized training on diet solutions for diseases that they receive from the National Training School for Family and the Social Economy (ENFEFES) is directly copied from French programs. The food the dieticians then recommend foreign or vegetarian based diets, difficult to find in local markets and often prohibitively expensive for most Senegalese. Even for those who can afford such exotic meals, the special diet makes it difficult for them to share meals with their families.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
In response to the increase of chronic diseases in Senegalese cities, Salimata proposes a change in the food culture towards a diet that is based on healthy, local food products, modernized recipes and cooking methods. This presents preventative and curative options for most diet-related diseases. These options are affordable and complement or supplant prescription-based care.
Saly, through her organization Healthy Food Company, has documented the benefits and uses of various local products and dishes. She builds partnerships with medical practitioners in order to provide diet-based treatment plans for patients in addition to their medical prescriptions. Doctors send patients to her for nutritional and dietary consultations and she provides monitoring and follow-up services for the patient, the results of which are passed back to the doctors. The dietary and nutritional changes she provides allow for more effective treatment overall and contribute to good health beyond the prescription period.
Beyond meeting the needs of patients already in the medical system, Saly is working to change the attitudes and practices of the general public. She focuses on food education and training programs to transform the urban Senegalese diet in the long term, working with key institutions. She has partnered with a state training school to migrate the school’s diet/nutrition curriculum from expensive foreign solutions towards affordable local options. She is also running a pilot project with the Ngor Community to provide her food education curriculum to poor and rich students alike in kindergarten and primary school, as well as to their mothers and restaurant owners in the area. To tip the corporate sector, she is also partnering with large companies to include this training in their workforce programs, with the incentive that healthy living reduces health insurance and treatment costs.
Saly is building up an appreciation for a local, healthy diet through popular media channels. The success of these broadcasts has earned her a contract for an animated show to promote Senegalese products and traditional dishes. She has worked to modernize local cooking techniques to make it more attractive to a younger population and introduces new techniques for simplifying the cooking of traditional food products. Saly is using the brand of the Healthy Food Company to endorse products with a logo that can be recognized by Senegalese people, whether literate or not, in order to simplify and encourage the consumption of healthy, local foods.