Call to increase taxes on fast food companies to fight chronic disease

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A UK-based professor is concerned about the ‘big nation’ that Barbados has become and urges lawmakers to consider implementing ‘double taxation’ on fast food outlets in order to combat it. obesity and overweight.

Professor Kennedy Cruickshank made the suggestion Monday during a public lecture at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, which was held virtually under the theme Hypertension in the population of African descent.

Highlighting more than four decades of studies on malnutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes and hypertension and the link to ethnicity, Cruickshank said that while progress has been made in addressing concerns, “a lot” remains to be done.

He admitted that the concept of double taxation for restaurants may not be popular among owners. Cruickshank said lawmakers must do what is necessary to help protect the country’s children from developing health complications from certain food choices.

“Politicians need to think about sugar taxes beyond what they have right now,” he insisted.

With hundreds of people dying each year in Barbados from heart attacks, Professor Cruickshank said although he did not have hard evidence he believed it was mainly due to the inactivity of the population. . Many of these people suffered from diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

“I think it’s two things and I don’t have the data; one, the very rapid transition to becoming a big nation, and two, part of it, physical inactivity. People have left the earth absolutely as they should, but they have lost their physical activity with it, and in general, we don’t exercise enough regularly to keep these things at bay, ”he said.

He suggested that there were other factors to consider as well, including “the inflammation of this fat that contributes to diabetes.”

Cruickshank is Professor Emeritus of Cardiovascular Medicine and Diabetes in Life Sciences / Nutrition at Kings College and Consulting Physician at St Thomas’ & Guy Hospitals in London.

Responding to a question from a Barbados health official regarding an increased presence of overweight malnourished children and the likely impact of this on blood pressure, the professor said the combination was bad news, but added that “something can be done about it”.

He suggested exercise programs in schools as an option.

“Everyone has been encouraged to do this throughout their youth because energy balance is key,” he added.

In 2015, the government of Barbados implemented a 10% tax on the value of sugary drinks to discourage the consumption of these drinks and fight diabetes.

Studies have shown that the prevalence of obesity and overweight among adults and children in Barbados over the years has exceeded 30% on average, compared to only half of the global average.

During his lecture, Professor Cruickshank said he did not have a “magic bullet” to deal with the situation, but the COVID-19 pandemic was certainly “a warning” that urgent action was needed. necessary.

Since COVID-19, medical officials have repeatedly noted that people with underlying health conditions or long-term chronic illnesses are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus.

“We are struggling with vaccines here in Barbados and we don’t have enough in Jamaica, but the assumption is that you have to treat these diseases at the population level as well as at the patient level,” said Cruickshank. ([email protected])

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