The Advocating for Health (A4H) Coalition has said the true economic and health costs of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) as staggering.
The group, comprising academics from five public universities in Ghana (led by the University of Ghana, School of Public Health) and their international partners, civil society organizations (including the Ghana NCD Alliance), nutrition societies (including the Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), and public health associations (including the Ghana Public Health Association) is commending the Government of Ghana for proposing to tax health-harming commodities and products including sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
The group is of the conviction that the move by government is in the right direction as health costs and deaths linked to these products mount.
They describe the move as the “right intervention to protect, promote, and assure public health.”
According to a statement issued by the group, Ghana is experiencing a surge in diet-related NCDs, amidst challenges of food insecurity, micronutrient malnutrition, and infectious morbidities. 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. SSBs are a significant contributor to overweight, obesity and other diet-related NCDs (including dental caries). While the determinants of these conditions are many, dietary factors such as excessive consumption of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods (including SSBs) are the most important.”
A team of Ghanaian researchers recently estimated the direct healthcare costs associated with obesity in older adult Ghanaian population to be very high. 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. Concerned about this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that adults and children limit their intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake per day.