As part of the activities towards creating awareness on the harmful effects of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), the Advocating for Health coalition led by the Ghana NCD alliance organized a public forum in Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region. The forum was held at Wesley College of Education-Kumasi on the 24th of November 2022. This forum was aimed at creating awareness on the relationship between SSBs and non-communicable diseases (NCDs); inspire behaviour change by exposing the adverse effects of SSBs on health, economy and the society; provide a two-way communication ground between the general public and relevant stakeholders/decision makers to understand diverse perspectives of the SSBs menace; and to afford regional stakeholders/decision makers a common ground to sync their respective roles in safeguarding public health against SSBs.
The forum brought together researchers and key stakeholders from across various sectors in the public health space. The public lecture had presentations covering SSBs and its health implications; obesity and NCDs, and the need for SSB taxation.
The coordinator of the A4H project, Annabel Yeboah-Nkrumah kick started the forum by providing a brief background on the state of nutrition in Ghana and the need for Public Health interventions in the form of diet-related fiscal policies. She also provided an overview of the A4H project and its objectives and called on all Ghanaians, especially the youth to join in the campaign against SSBs and advocate for the health of all Ghanaians.
Mrs. Efua Owusu-Ansah, the principal dietician at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital outlined several health consequences of SSBs to include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, dental carries, stroke and some type of cancers and expressed great worry on the rise of NCD cases in most hospitals across Ghana. She urged the public to consume healthier food options and save themselves from the life-threatening diseases that can be caused excessive sugary drinks intake. “Eating fruits and vegetables in the form smoothies and drinking water are healthier alternatives to SSBs” Dr. Charles Apprey, added.
Presenting on the socio-economic implications of SSBs, Dr. Charles Apprey described Ghana’s food environment to be obesogenic, stating that SSBs occupy a greater space on the shelves in most retail shops and have also become easily accessible. He further indicated that the implementation of SSB taxes in other countries have proven to be effective in reducing the risings levels of NCDs. The taxes increase the price of SSBs, decreases its purchase, reduces sugar intake and raises revenue for the Government. Dr. Apprey concluded his presentation by saying that “If SSB taxes have worked in other countries, then Ghana should and can also adopt this strategy to reduce the health care cost of NCDs”.
From the Ghana NCDs Alliance team (GhNCDA), Dr. Beatrice Wiafe Addai, Chairperson of the GhNCDA also provided statistics on the rising levels of NCDs in Ghana and expressed her worry about how fast it is rising, especially among children. Speaking to the media, she reiterated the harms of excessive sugary drinks intake and the need to critically to minimize its consumption. She said “We are asking the government to tax these sugary drinks. The revenue raised can be used to support the health sector so that, those who are already diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and strokes can get some treatment,” Mr. Labram Musah, the coordinator of GhNCDA, exposed the tactics of the food industries in his presentation titled: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)- A Mere Whitewashing Scheme. He therefore called on the Government of Ghana to take action now.