PAHO calls for hefty taxes on fatty, salty, sugary foods
Given that Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) is one of the main causes of death among Guyanese, specialists at the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) believe that Guyana should implement heavy taxes on unhealthy foods in a bid to reduce the high yearly deaths caused by hypertension and diabetes among others.
Specialist in the Health System Services, Paul Edwards told workshop participants on Monday at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown, that the Government should move towards implementing such taxes in a bid to motivate locals to eat healthier.
He explained that Guyana has adapted to a lifestyle of using too many unhealthy foods in their diet.
Edwards argued, “Guyana is not immune to the effects of globalisation as western lifestyles have infiltrated our culture causing unhealthy modifications to our diet. We now consume more foods high in trans fats and salts, sit in front of the television, or computer for hours at a time, in addition to having a higher per capita of alcohol consumption than most of our Caribbean and Latin American counterparts”.
It is against this backdrop that he called for new measures to be implemented. “Best buys are cost-effective interventions that are feasible to be implemented even in low resource settings have been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for prevention and control of Cardiovascular Diseases”.
Along with increasing taxes on unhealthy foods, the PAHO representative said that healthy meals should also be provided for school children, as this plays a vital role on the children’s ability to learn and function well.
While listing a few examples of the measures which can be introduced, he outlined, “Comprehensive tobacco control policy, taxation to reduce intake of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, building walking and cycle paths to increase physical activity, strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and providing healthy school meals for children”.
Edwards was at the time sharing remarks at the event geared at tackling the scourge on behalf of the PAHO/WHO representative to Guyana, William Adu-Krow.
He further shared some global statistics to support his argument. According to him, CVDs happen to fall under the list of the most popular ways to die globally.
In fact, some 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2016, representing 31 per cent of all global deaths. The specialist further shared that 85 per cent of those deaths were caused by heart attack and stroke while three-quarters of those deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries.
The PAHO representative stressed that this phenomenon in such countries is supported by the fact that integrated primary healthcare programmes are not available for early detection and treatment when compared to individuals who live in high-income countries.
“Those persons living in low and middle-income countries suffer from CVDs and other non-communicable diseases have less access to effective and equitable healthcare services which respond to their needs,” he pointed out.
As a result of this hurdle, many persons end up dying young, Edwards stated.
On that note, he reminded that in Guyana the leading causes of death are heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, diabetes and cancer – illnesses that are all related.
The two-day workshop being hosted at the Marriott Hotel will see doctors from all 10 Administrative Regions joining forces to deal with the CVD’s which plague locals.
Facilitating the sessions which wind down today is Dr Kenneth Connel from Barbados who shared some of the popular barriers to controlling one’s blood pressure, often referred to as BP.
These include limited access and poor adherence to treatment by patients and lack of adequate time with patients, by doctors.
Just last year it was revealed by Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence that Cardiovascular Diseases account for some 32 per cent of deaths in Guyana.
She highlighted that this arises from the fact that Guyanese tend to pay very little attention to their symptoms and other health-related issues.
Currently, health and well-being is third on the list of developing sustainable development goals.