Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Jamaicans want stronger action on sugary drinks, survey says

Published:Tuesday | September 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Dr Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Deborah Chen, executive director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, look at the survey of the Obesity Prevention Campaign Survey results, at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Monday.

MORE THAN 80 per cent of Jamaicans would support a tax on sugary drinks, if revenues accrued were to be spent on programmes to reduce obesity, especially among children, the results from the 2016-17 Obesity Prevention Campaign Survey found.

But while the Government is yet to take a position on the tax option, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton appears to have left the door open for a future policy shift, stating that the issue must not be dismissed.

"It is something that we should not dismiss, but it has to take another policy initiative with the approval of Cabinet, and right now we are not there yet," Tufton said.

The survey shows that the public is increasingly giving the Government strong support in its action on the issue of obesity.

Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings, according to Dr Rainford Wilks, professor of epidemiology at the Caribbean Institute for Health Research.

The survey showed that 54 per cent, or one in two Jamaicans, were overweight or obese. In addition, it showed that two-thirds of women 15 years or older are overweight. It tracks a trend that indicates a 76 per cent increase in 16 years.

Eighty-three per cent of respondents strongly support policies on the provision of healthy food and beverages in schools.

Further, it is stated that more than three-quarters, or 78 per cent of respondents, support prohibiting the sale of unhealthy food and drinks in school.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com