Health survey results worrying
The Government-imposed 10 per cent excise tax on sweetened beverages received the endorsement of top health officials today during the launch of the Barbados Health of the Nation (HotN) Survey: Core Findings 2015.
The report revealed that Barbados has one of the highest rates of non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the Americas, with 19 per cent of adults aged 25 years or older found to be diabetic; 53 per cent have high cholesterol and 41 per cent found to have high blood pressure.
The study was conducted by the University of the West Indies in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Chronic Disease Research Centre and researchers surveyed 1234 people – 756 of the women and 470 men -from 2011 to 2013
“The impact of [non] chronic disease has the potential to set back our national development and our capacity to achieve many of our developmental goals. In addition treatment of these diseases and their long-term complications result in high health care costs especially at the tertiary level. Therefore one of the solutions lies in the strength and robustness of our primary care system and its capacity to reach people where they live, work and play,” Minister of Health John Boyce said.
“The report of the United Nations Inter Agency Task Force gives direction using international best practice to address many of the NCD policy and programme deficits. Some of these are already being implemented including a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, the development of a plan to address childhood obesity and cancer and the revision of the food basket for healthy and affordable foods,” Boyce added.
The tax went into effect on August 1st on locally produced and imported sweetened beverages such as carbonated soft drinks, juice drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices.
Professor Nigel Uwin, one of the writers of the HotN, said Government was on the right track with this policy.
“Some of the widely used interventions for this which have been very well evaluated and recommended for groups like the World Health Organization (WHO) include the appropriate use of taxation subsidies.
“So taxation on tobacco for example pushed up the price of tobacco or alcohol up [and] on average reduces the intake of those. A combination of taxes on unhealthy foods and subsidies on healthier foods [and] controlling advertising has proved to be very effective,” Uwin explained.
The Chronic Disease Research Centre disclosed that it would monitor the impact of the tax in order to track its rate of success.
“What we are going to provide to the public is whether they work. So the sugar sweet and beverage tax is the latest kid on the block, and a lot of people will have their own thoughts on it. And it’s important to know that the Health of the Nation [Study] has a component in it where we already know the consumption habit of the public for sugar sweet beverages. So when this new tax comes in we will be able to let you know if it had the desired effect,” the Director of the CDRC Professor Clive Landis told those on hand for the launch of the HotN.
Landis described the HotN study as a turning point in the country’s efforts to reverse the incidence of NCDs.