The Advocating for Health (A4H) Coalition has commended the Government of Ghana over the proposal to tax health-harming commodities and products including sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
The coalition comprising of academics from five public universities in Ghana and their local and international partners led by the School of Public Health at the University of Ghana, in a press statement indicated that considering the health harm these products are causing, taxation is the prudent means of addressing the situation.
Making a case for the need of taxes on these sugar-sweetened products, A4H explained that diet-related non-communicable diseases (NDCs) are a major cause of death and disability globally adding that Ghana is currentlty experiencing a surge in diet-related non-communicable diseases.
“Several local studies report a high prevalence of overweight and obesity among Ghanaians, ranging from 16% to 46% for children aged 6 – 15 years and 25% to 47% for adults aged 15 years or older. One of the studies reported a 50% co-morbid conditions of diabetes and obese in Ghanaian adults. People (particularly children) who suffer from overweight or obesity have an elevated probability of developing other diet-related NCDs such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and stroke in later life,” parts of the statement quoted.
The coalition further noted that cost of treating these diet-related NCDs is becoming unbearable for both the individual and the government hence requiring a swift attention.
“Compared with healthy-weight adults, overweight and obesity were associated with 75% and 159% more in-patient admissions, respectively. For adults with healthy weight, the average per person health care cost per admission was $35, whereas for adults with overweight it was $78, and adults with obesity, $132. The researchers also estimated that 60% of the average total cost per person expended in 2014/2015 was borne by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Extrapolating to the entire older adult Ghanaian population (aged 50+ years), the total direct healthcare cost burden for overweight and obesity was $121 million compared with $64 million for normal weight. This implies that the Government of Ghana is paying for these preventable, expensive health conditions when lives and money could be saved with preventive policies such as SSB, tobacco and alcohol taxes,”
Due to the staggering health and economic costs associated with diet-related NCDs including other harmful impacts, the coalition indicated that government should not relent on its effort tax these products despite the stiff opposition from industry players.
According to the coalition, taxing sugar-sweetened beverages will be a “Win-Win-Win Strategy” as far as Public Health, Government Revenue and Health Equity are concerned.
The coalition added that, “ the government of Ghana does not only have an opportunity to enact and implement this policy, but a responsibility to do so. It is the responsibility of every government to protect, promote, and guarantee the health of its citizens – as per their national constitutions, legislation, regulations, and policies, as well as international conventions.”