Sugar tax can lead to ‘healthier diets’

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  • Cheryl Peek-Ball, Chief Medical Officer with the Ministry of Health spoke to Rotarians this week about how public health is addressing Bermuda’s health problems (File photograph)

    Cheryl Peek-Ball, Chief Medical Officer with the Ministry of Health spoke to Rotarians this week about how public health is addressing Bermuda’s health problems (File photograph)

Research has shown that a tax on sugary non-nutritious foods cuts consumption, according to Bermuda’s chief medical officer.

Cheryl Peek-Ball told Hamilton Rotarians that a subsidy for locally grown fresh produce had also led to healthier diets in many jurisdiction.

Dr Peek-Ball was speaking after the Throne Speech said Government would start consultation on the introduction of a sugar tax on the sale of some foods and drinks.

She said: “Mounting evidence in many jurisdictions shows that taxation of sugary non-nutritive foods reduce their use and that subsidy of locally grown fresh produce improve access to healthier diets. “Advocacy and policy development in both these areas will continue this year.”

Dr Peek-Ball highlighted the success of school nutrition policies that increased access to healthy foods for children.

She said the Ministry of Health would continue to encourage compliance and work “for mandated daily physical activity throughout all 12 years of schooling”.

But she added that more collaboration is needed in these areas to “assure these sensible, healthy policies become a reality”. In a speech on how public health authorities can help beat Bermuda’s health problems, Dr Peek-Ball called for better health promotion as public policy and increased personal responsibility to tackle its chronic disease crisis.

Dr Peek-Ball said: “Both are needed, and as soon as possible, if Bermuda is to reverse its chronic disease crisis.”

But she added that both will present a challenge and will require focus and sustained effort, as well as thinking and behaving in new ways.

Dr Peek-Ball encouraged everyone to use public health principles and tactics to solve major health problems.

These include premature death and disability caused by obesity, diabetes, kidney and heart disease, as well as psychological and social problems such as substance abuse, family dysfunction, community violence and preventable road traffic injuries. She also outlined how the principles of prevention, social justice, collaboration and personal empowerment made a difference.

Dr Peek-Ball also emphasised that lifestyle decisions “hold tremendous power and can be the deciding factor in health”.

She said: “In the coming years, public policy will need to be accompanied by a fierce determination to take control of our health by making the necessary lifestyle and behaviour changes.

“When we stop smoking, or choose not to drink and drive, when we pick fresh whole foods over processed, non-nutritious sweets, and when we make daily physical activity a high priority, we are taking personal responsibility for our health and wellbeing. And it pays off.”

She added: “Our lifestyle, our behaviour choices, can be the difference between life and death or between a poor quality and a high quality of life.

“They also affect the productivity of the workforce and the strength of the island’s economy.”

And she added: “In the coming year, the public health sector, led by the Ministry of Health, will continue to roll out its framework for a national policy to halt the rise of obesity and diabetes in Bermuda.

“You will hear much more about this from the Department of Health in the weeks ahead.”

She said the annual Celebrating Wellness event hosted by the health department in Victoria Park on September 27 “will energise and focus us on taking responsibility for our health”.

She also revealed that the Ministry planned to use social media to “enlist the help of all of Bermuda in putting public health principles to work solving some of the island’s problems”.

In addition, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer will work with the private healthcare sector to develop a chronic disease register.

Dr Peek-Ball said that would allow professionals to better monitor chronic diseases and how well they are being managed.

She added: “We are also making comparisons of our health outcomes and health system strength to various similarly developed countries in the world.”

Dr Peek-Ball said findings of this comparison with 30 other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries would be made public later this month.

She added: “We will see a mixed picture of our health system, some good news and some not so good news.”

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Published Sep 19, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 19, 2017 at 6:59 am)

Sugar tax can lead to ‘healthier diets’

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