A post-obesity-prevention campaign survey has found that most Jamaicans attribute their poor health to sugary drink consumption.
Ongoing talks with drink manufacturers
Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton speaking at the release of the ‘Are You Drinking Yourself Sick?’ survey results, said discussions have already started with manufacturers with who distribute drinks to schools about the steps to be taken to reduce the sugar content before the implementation of the new policy in January 2019.
According to the survey, seven out of 10 Jamaicans attributed negative health impact to sugary-drink consumption and that approximately eight out of 10 respondents were concerned about the effects of sugary drinks on their children’s health.
Easy access to sugary drinks at schools
The survey found that there was also evidence indicating that children had easier access to sugary drinks at school, when compared to their homes or other places outside of their homes.
The survey also found that approximately 54 per cent of respondents agreed that children had most sugary drinks at school with approximately 83 per cent of them strongly supported policies on the provision of healthy food and beverages in schools.
Tax on sugary drinks supported
Approximately 71 per cent of Jamaicans interviewed support the imposition of a tax on sugary drinks with eight out of 10 persons agreeing that the tax revenue should be spent on programs that reduce obesity, especially among children.
At least 91 per cent of respondents agreed that there should be clear warning labels on the front of food and beverage packages to alert consumers when products are high in sugar, salt or fats.
Tufton said manufacturers were key stakeholders that the government wants to see producing juices that are more fruit-based and healthy for children.
“There are three months to go (before the policy is implemented in January). In the meantime, we have been having discussions with a number of the critical stakeholders, including manufacturers.
“I think it’s important that the dialogue continue. I think its key for the behavioral change that we seek to include all concerned, because this campaign, this public advocacy, is not just about behavioral change for our children, our teachers, our vendors and our policymakers; it’s also about behavioral change for those who supply the goods that we would like to consume,” Tufton said. He also said he is encouraging manufacturers to embrace the approach the Ministry of Health has been taking, as the goal is to reduce obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among children. “It is good business to say to your consuming public that we have a product that’s good for you, and frankly speaking, a drink that contains four times the daily recommended amount of sugar cannot be good for you.”