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Analytical summary - Risk factors for health

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The Government of Botswana's revised National Health Policy 2011 recognizes lifestyles that play an important role in health, particularly those linked to the increasing rates of noncommunicable diseases or their risk factors, such as obesity and stressful living conditions. Lifestyles of major concern in the country include smoking, unhealthy eating, alcohol use and abuse, and risky sexual behaviours.

The Global Youth Tobacco Surveys, conducted in 2008 on young people aged 13–15 years from 50 schools across the country, showed a smoking prevalence rate of 14.3% among the survey participants. The average adult per capita consumption of alcohol in Botswana is estimated at 8 litres of pure alcohol per inhabitant per year while the regional average is 7 litres per year. Alcohol has been linked to gender-based violence and the spread of HIV.

The 2010 evaluation of the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Strategy indicated unhealthy sexual lifestyles were prevalent among young people. The number of sexual partners for males increased from an average of one partner to two partners between 2001 and 2010; the number of adolescents who ever had sex under the influence of alcohol increased from 20% in 2001 to 30% in 2010.

The Ministry of Health has made a commitment to work in collaboration with relevant ministries, civil society and other relevant stakeholders to:

  • review existing regulations
  • develop and disseminate healthy lifestyle policies and guidelines
  • create awareness among communities of their responsibility for their own health and that of future generations.

Workplace wellness committees and community-based organizations such as village health committees and village development committees have in their mandate public sensitization and education. School curricula, especially at primary and secondary schools, sensitize young people to the health risks associated with alcohol and tobacco use, and the school health policy provides for assessment of students for alcohol and tobacco use and institution of appropriate intervention. In its research agenda, the Ministry of Health has given attention to healthy lifestyles as a guide for researchers so they realize the importance of research in those areas.

The Government has developed a number of policy documents to guide in the promotion of healthy lifestyles and prevention of noncommunicable diseases. The Control of Smoking Act requires that each employer develops a smoking policy that must be disseminated to employees. However, enforcement of the laws governing tobacco use remains a challenge. The National Policy on Alcohol provides an institutional framework for a multisectoral implementation of strategies at national, district, local and community levels aimed at regulating alcohol use.

The HIV/AIDS policy, strategic framework and programmes such as Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission provide a guide to preventing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases with an emphasis on behavioural change, especially for young people.