Advocating For Health (A4H) Project has indicated that 42 per cent of students in Ghana consume sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) daily, and that puts their lives at high risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The A4H, a coalition of health experts puts the ages of the students between three and 10 years, and that the passage of the Excise Duty Amendment Bill by Parliament was in the right direction to reduce the consumption of health-harming products in the country.
The coalition, which comprised of Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (GAND), Ghana Public Health Association, the University of Ghana School of Public Health, Ghana NCD Alliance, the University of Health and Allied Sciences made the disclosure at a day’s training workshop for journalists in Accra.
The workshop was aimed at broadening the knowledge of the media personnel to enable them to provide adequate and holistic communication of the health benefits of the taxes on SSBs to help shape the conversations from an evidence-based standpoint.
Some of the topics handled included; “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.”
In a presentation on “The effect of SSB on nutritional wellbeing and health,” Professor Reginald Annan of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Chair of GAND Nutrition Group, noted that the biggest problem with SSBs was loaded empty calories.
“A can of soda has about nine cubes of sugar with 150 calories and no nutrition value whatsoever. Drinking just one can of soda a day can led to weight gain and an increased risk for obesity,” he stated.
Prof Annan said: “This means one must walk for 30 minutes or more to get rid of the sugar consumed in one can of soda. SSBs are also linked to type ‘2’ diabetes. The sugar in these beverages raises your blood sugar levels, which can damage your pancreas and lead to insulin resistance. “This increases your risk for developing type ‘2’ diabetes.”
He said research had shown that the sugar beverages were associated with dental caries, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and many other NCDs, adding that; “Ghana is experiencing a surge in NCDs amidst food insecurity, micronutrient malnutrition, and infectious morbidities.”
Prof Kingsley Pereko, President of the Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in his welcoming address said 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 drove the most death and disabilities combined.
“It has been estimated that over one-third of all adult deaths are due to NCDs,” he stated, adding that the implication of these on Ghana’s economy was enormous as it would cost the country huge sums to treat diabetes related sickness yearly.
“So, if we can change the way we eat and eat healthy diets, we would be able to address diet related NCDs such as diabetes, as well as obesity and save the country a lot of money,” he urged.
Prof Pereko said Ghana could not afford the epidemic proportions of NCD levels as the healthcare system cannot take care of people who are sick and urged public health nutritionists to intensify the campaign to protect the health of the citizens.
He entreated the public to adhere to health safety protocols and heed to the call to avoid intake of SSBs to remain healthy and productive.
Stressing the importance of the A4H Project, Prof Pereko said the coalition would continue to create a favourable food environment and stakeholder buy-in for food-related fiscal policies including SSB tax in Ghana.