According to the Advocating for Health (A4H) Project, 42% of students in Ghana are putting their lives at risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by consuming sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) daily.
The A4H coalition, made up of health experts, disclosed that students aged between three and 10 years are at risk of NCDs due to their daily intake of SSBs.
The Excise Duty Amendment Bill recently passed by Parliament was viewed by the coalition as a positive step towards reducing the consumption of health-harming products in the country.
At a day-long training workshop held in Accra, the coalition, which comprised the Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (GAND), the Ghana Public Health Association, the University of Ghana School of Public Health, the Ghana NCD Alliance, and the University of Health and Allied Sciences, aimed to broaden the knowledge of journalists on the benefits of taxes on SSBs.
The workshop focused on topics such as “The Effect of SSBs on Nutritional Wellbeing and Health,” “Introduction to Global and National Actions to Address SSBs and NCDs,” “Story Angles on SSB and its Related Health Risk Prevention,” and “Media Actions in Driving Fiscal Policies for SSBs.”
Professor Reginald Annan of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Chair of GAND Nutrition Group presented “The Effect of SSBs on Nutritional Wellbeing and Health.”
He emphasized that SSBs contain loaded empty calories, and a can of soda, for instance, contains about nine cubes of sugar with 150 calories and no nutritional value.
Professor Annan stated that consuming just one can of soda a day lead to weight gain and an increased risk of obesity. He added that SSBs are also linked to type 2 diabetes, and the sugar in these beverages can raise blood sugar levels, which can damage the pancreas and lead to insulin resistance, thereby increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Prof. Annan also pointed out that sugary beverages are associated with dental caries, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and many other NCDs.
Professor Kingsley Pereko, President of GAND, in his welcoming address, stressed that high blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, dietary risk factors of NCDs, and high body mass index were among the top 10 risk factors that drive the most death and disabilities combined.
Prof. Pereko also highlighted that over one-third of all adult, deaths are due to NCDs, and these pose an enormous implication on the economy as it would cost the country huge sums to treat diabetes-related illnesses annually. He urged Ghanaians to adopt healthy eating habits to address diet-related NCDs and save the country a lot of money.
Prof. Pereko emphasized that Ghana cannot afford the epidemic proportions of NCD levels as the healthcare system cannot cater to people who are sick.
He urged public health nutritionists to intensify campaigns to protect the health of citizens and advised the public to adhere to health safety protocols and avoid SSBs to remain healthy and productive.
Prof. Pereko stated that the A4H coalition would continue to create a favourable food environment and stakeholder buy-in for food-related fiscal policies, including the SSB tax in Ghana.
The A4H Project is a laudable initiative aimed at protecting the health of Ghanaians by reducing the consumption of health-harming products in the country.