Centro para la Defensa del Consumidor (CDC) to improve cardiovascular health by reducing salt intake in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala

June 20, 2021 (San Salvador, El Salvador) – Despite the toll COVID-19 has taken on health around the world, cardiovascular disease remains the world’s leading cause of death and will lead to more than 6 million premature deaths this year. But reducing salt intake can lower high blood pressure, a top contributor to heart disease, and save lives. Today, Centro para la Defensa del Consumidor (CDC) received a grant from Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, to reduce sodium consumption in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala by advocating for front-of-package warning labels on packaged foods. The program will design new front-of-package warning labels and collaborate with civil society coalitions to support policy change for the adoption of mandatory front-of-package labeling legislation in the three countries.

“Front-of-package labelling is a proven strategy to reduce sodium consumption and has demonstrated success in countries across Latin America – we can do the same in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala, ” said Danilo Pérez, President of Centro para la Defensa del Consumidor (CDC).  “Labels increase awareness to the danger of high sodium products and enable consumers to choose low-sodium foods for longer, healthier lives.” [SC1] 

CDC will lead efforts to create front-of-package warning labels on packaged and processed foods incorporating the Pan American Health Organization’s nutrient profile, a tool to classify processed and ultra-processed food and drink products that are exceed recommended amounts of sugars, salt, total fat, saturated fat and trans fat. CDC will also test consumer perceptions of the new warning labels and use findings from these evaluations to work with civil society coalitions to advocate for mandatory front-of-package labeling for high-sodium foods.

CDC will use the model for front-of-package warning labels sucessfuly pioneered in Chile. Since 2016, Chile’s Law of Food Labeling and Advertising has required foods and beverages high in calories, sugar, sodium, and trans fat content to include warning labels on their packaging and follow strict marketing restrictions; sales of these products are also banned sales in schools.

Ultra-processed high-sodium foods are a leading cause of noncommunicable diseases including high blood pressure and heart disease. As populations  in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala have become increasingly urban, consumption of these high-sodium processed foods have also risen, increasing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Policies that support lower sodium consumption, such as front-of-package warning labels, can lower high blood pressure and prevent deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Resolve to Save Lives announced awards totaling more than US$1.1 million to improve cardiovascular health around the world, including addressing risk factors heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC joins LINKS grant awardees in Cameroon, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico, and the Philippines.

“COVID-19 has revealed vulnerabilities in our health systems and highlighted existing barriers to reducing cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Jennifer Cohn, Senior Vice President for Cardiovascular Health of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. “These LINKS grantees are engaging in critical, lifesaving work to manage hypertension, eliminate trans fats and reduce sodium. By improving cardiovascular health, they will save lives and help build populations resilient to future epidemics.”

The highly competitive grant program, part of the LINKS platform that connects people working to improve cardiovascular health around the world, is funded by Resolve to Save Lives. This is the third round of LINKS grants, following two previous grant cycles in March 2019 and November 2019. 

LINKS membership is free and members are eligible to apply for one-time grants to improve cardiovascular health in their communities using one of three proven, effective approaches to improving heart health: increasing control of high blood pressure, reducing salt intake or eliminating trans-fat. LINKS also provides members access to technical assistance from cardiovascular health experts from around the world, networking opportunities, useful tools for cardiovascular health and live webinars.

2021 Grant Recipients and Projects:

Cameroon: Reconciliation and Development Association (RADA)

RADA will support FOPL legislation by conducting a salt content and food labelling analysis on popular local and imported packaged food products in Cameroon.

Ghana: Institute of Leadership and Development (INSLA)

INSLA will conduct advocacy campaigns, including  media outreach and public events, to support Ghana’s national commitment to trans fat elimination by 2023.

Cameroon: Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services

This project will support policy to eliminate trans fat through data collection on its content in diets and oils through a population-based survey, developing advocacy strategy, and convening a technical working group with key stakeholders .

Mexico: Compañeros en Salud México A.C. (CES)/Partners in Health (PIH)

This project will expand access to hypertension care in Chiapas, Mexico by integrating task-shifting into hypertension screening, monitoring and management protocols.

Ghana: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

In partnership with the Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) program, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai will increase task sharing through implementing a new Task-Strengthening Strategy for Hypertension (TASSH) protocol to improve hypertension treatment, based on the WHO HEARTS technical package, in Ghana’s national nurse-led primary care system.

Kenya: PATH

PATH will use an integrated service delivery model to screen and provide care for HIV patients with hypertension in Kenya.

Guatemala: Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama – (INCAP)

INCAP will promote community-based, patient-centered strategies, including social accountability interventions, municipal pharmacies with low-cost medications and digital task-sharing tools, to improve hypertension control in rural Guatemala.

Philippines: ImagineLaw, Inc.

This project aims to limit consumption of processed foods high in sodium and trans fat during the COVID-19 pandemic by developing a food policy to ensure adherence with nutrition guidelines in government food assistance.

India: Government of Karnataka
The Government of Karnataka will support a mid-day meal program for 5 million school children – provided meals will follow national guidelines for lowsodium salt procurement and reduced salt consumption.


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