Wed | Jan 24, 2018

Douste-Blazy suggests travel tax to help fund health care

Published:Tuesday | January 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines

Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy, special adviser on innovative financing for development in the United Nations, has expressed the possibility of Jamaica implementing levies on airfare and cruise line passengers to strengthen their health budget and close the financial gaps in the public system.

"If each head of state implements this, then the region is going to have some millions of dollars to share to improve your health care systems. It's nothing, it's painless for the citizen. If you collect US$1 per plane ticket or cruise ship passenger, at the end of the day, you are going to have a lot of money."

This method has been tested and proven by Douste-Blazy, who is the chairman and a founding member of UNITAID, a global health initiative financed in great part by a solidarity levy on airline tickets established in 2006. It provides sustainable funding in order to tackle inefficiencies in markets for medicines, diagnostics and prevention for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries.

On the topic of prominent health trends being observed in the region, Douste-Blazy said the region needs to transition from curative to preventive medicine.

He pointed to non-communi-cable diseases such as diabetes and obesity as developing areas of concern.

"In Jamaica, children drink a lot of soda, eat a lot of sugar, and they don't understand that it's bad for their health. We have to convince parents and ministers of health - and even education - to teach them, because at 18 years old, it's already too late."