The Association of Consultant Physicians of Jamaica (ACPJ) represents internal medicine specialists, i.e. doctors specializing in the treatment of medical diseases in adults. We add our voices to the current conversation in the public space about obesity in Jamaica and the proposed taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB). We too are extremely concerned about the epidemic of obesity and its associated chronic illnesses (e.g. heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, diabetes, cancer) and the resulting devastating effects on the people of Jamaica. The amount of suffering and reduction of human capital is enormous. The resulting high health care cost and lost years of productive life have profound economic consequences. Recent data suggests that even if countries immediately attain the Millennium Sustainable Development Goals set by the World Health Organization, the tsunami of obesity will still devastate all economies globally and rob human capital.
We support the Heart Foundation of Jamaica and the Ministry of Health’s Jamaica Moves Program, in educating the public about the risks of excessive weight and to reduce the associated complications. Recently, much has been discussed about the taxes of SSB which are being implemented in many countries, including the Caribbean and the UK. The preliminary data from some countries, such as Mexico and Barbados, about its effectiveness are encouraging. So, the addition of a tax on SSB is just one useful tool to tackle the problem of obesity which we support.
This tax should not be thought off as a panacea and several interventions are concurrently needed. In addition, we advocate discounting healthy food to the public, reducing harmful marketing especially to children and youth, city planning to improve physical activity, providing safe areas for exercise, adjusting the nation’s food policy, having more effective food labels and more education on healthy food options, as just some of the methods that are needed to be deployed in the battle against obesity. Proper monitoring of the programmes will be needed to assess their efficacy. A mammoth task? Yes, but the journey must begin in earnest and the proposed tax on SSB is one such step. We also hope that any tax revenue would be used for health care to fund other initiatives to reduce obesity.”