The director of PAHO praised Mexico’s tax on soft drinks as an exemplary measure to fight diabetes. Mexico has set an example for other countries by becoming the first country in the Americas to raise taxes on soft drinks and other sugary drinks to reduce their consumption, Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said at an event marking the World health day, which this year is focused on diabetes.
Measures such as a tax increase on sugar-sweetened drinks, regulations on junk food advertising to children and front-of-food labeling to warn of excess salt, sugar or fat are among measures recommended by this year’s World Health Day campaign to promote healthy eating for prevention and control of diabetes.
“Mexico has demonstrated its global leadership by raising taxes on sweet drinks, who managed to reduce consumption by 6% in one year. This is an integral part of the integrated national strategy adopted by Mexico to combat obesity, overweight and diabetes,” said Etienne. “This is a great start, and other countries in our region, such as Barbados and my country, Dominica, have replicated this experience. In this regard, I urge other countries in our region to establish taxes on sugary drinks following Mexico’s successful example,” he added. .
The PAHO director’s call to action is part of this year’s World Health Day campaign, whose motto is “Step forward. Beat diabetes.” The initiative aims to raise awareness of the importance of increasing the prevention and control of diabetes, which is the eighth leading cause of death in the world, the fourth in the Americas and the leading cause in Mexico.
In America, the number of people with diabetes has tripled in the past three decades, from 18 million in 1980 to approximately 62 million in 2014. This increase has paralleled rising rates of overweight and obesity, the leading risk factors for type 2. If If current trends continue, PAHO estimates that the number of people with diabetes in America will exceed 100 million in 2040.
“Diabetes affects everyone, but especially those in vulnerable situations: those who have economic limitations, no access to health care and fewer opportunities for a healthy life,” explained Etienne. “We are undoubtedly faced with an epidemic that has devastating effects on the quality of life of patients, as well as on their families, health systems and economies of countries,” he explained.
The PAHO Director’s statements were made during the opening of the Continental Forum on Diabetes, organized by PAHO and the Mexican Ministry of Health. Mexico’s Minister of Health, José Narro, was also present at the launch of the campaign for the Americas. Narro found that more than 90,000 Mexicans died of diabetes in 2015, representing 1 in every 7 deaths in the country. “This issue is one of our priorities and deserves a comprehensive strategy,” he commented.
Etienne congratulated the secretary and the government of Mexico for their commitment to “policies and actions that facilitate healthy lifestyles.” Along with its juice tax, Mexico has committed to implementing policies based on new World Health Organization recommendations to limit consumption of added sugars.
Along with measures like these, Etienne urged PAHO member countries to step up the fight against diabetes in other ways. “Diabetes prevention and control also requires an equitable approach to address gaps and address the social determinants of health,” he said. “In this sense, PAHO works closely with its member states to move towards universal coverage and universal access to health, and promotes a model of integrated diabetes management in primary health care,” he said.
World Health Day is celebrated every April 7 in commemoration of the anniversary of the founding of the WHO in 1948.