A number of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are predicted to become the leading cause of death in Ghana and Africa in the next seven years, the Project Lead for Advocating for Health Coalition project, Professor Amos Laar, has disclosed.
The NCDs include diabetes, hypertension, cancer, heart disease, chronic lung disease and stroke.
According to him, there was a surge in diet-related NCDs amidst challenges of food insecurity, micronutrient malnutrition, and infectious morbidities.
Speaking with the Ghanaian Times at a press conference in Accra on Tuesday, Prof. Laar stated that health cost and death linked to these diseases had mounted and that it was the right intervention to protect, promote and guarantee public health.
Advocating for Health Coalition is a coalition made up of the University of Ghana School of Public Health, Ghana NCD Alliance, Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Ghana Public Health Association.
Prof. Laar noted that several local studies reported a high prevalence of overweight and obesity among Ghanaians, ranging from 16 to 46 per cent for children aged six– 15 years, and 25 to 47per cent for adults aged 15 years or older.
He said people (particularly children) who suffered from obesity had an “elevated probability” of developing other diet-related NCDs, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and stroke in later life.
“I therefore commend the government of Ghana for the proposal to tax health-harming commodities and products, including sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
“SSBs are a significant contributor to obesity and other diet-related NCDs (including tooth decay). The true economic and health costs of these whenever it is estimated is very very huge,’’ he stated.
Prof. Laar said a team of Ghanaian researchers recently estimated the direct healthcare cost associated with obesity in older adult Ghanaian population was very high, and that for adults with healthy weight, the average per person healthcare cost per admission was $35, whereas for adults with obesity, $132.
The researchers, he said, also estimated that 60 per cent of the average total cost per person expended in 2014/2015 was borne by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
“Inferring to the entire older adult Ghanaian population (aged 50+ years), the total direct healthcare cost burden for overweight and obesity was $121 million, compared with $64 million for normal weight.”
“This implies that the Government of Ghana is paying for these preventable, expensive health conditions when lives and money could be saved with preventive policies such as SSB, tobacco and alcohol taxes,” he said.
The project lead said the World Health Organisation (WHO) concerned about sugars/SSBs had recommended that adults and children limit their intake of free sugars to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake per day as well as recommended taxes on SSBs as an intervention to reducing the consumption of sugars and other foods implicated in obesity and NCDs.
He, therefore, pledged support for the policy and monitors with keen interest its implementation.
BY BENEDICTA GYIMAAH FOLLEY