Jamaicans Will Support Gov’t Action to Combat Obesity

Photo: Dave Reid Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, addresses the launch of the National Obesity Prevention Public Opinion Survey at the Spanish Court Hotel in St. Andrew on March 7.

Story Highlights

  • Jamaicans will strongly support action on the part of Government to combat obesity, including imposing a tax on sugary drinks.
  • “Based on the findings of this survey, it is clear that there is the need for a comprehensive package, which would include policies as well as regulatory measures to create the supportive environment to influence behavioural change,” said Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, at the launch.
  • He noted that in any jurisdiction “where you want to see a real shift in behaviour, public education is the start of the process, which we have already begun to undertake, but, ultimately, policy and regulation form a vital part of the holistic approach”.

Jamaicans will strongly support action on the part of Government to combat obesity, including imposing a tax on sugary drinks.

This is according to the findings of a National Obesity Prevention Public Opinion Survey commissioned by the Heart Foundation of Jamaica and Vital Strategies, which was launched at the Spanish Court Hotel on March 7.

“Based on the findings of this survey, it is clear that there is the need for a comprehensive package, which would include policies as well as regulatory measures to create the supportive environment to influence behavioural change,” said Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, at the launch.

He said it is important for the Government to continue to be proactive in the fight against lifestyle illnesses among the populace.

He noted that in any jurisdiction “where you want to see a real shift in behaviour, public education is the start of the process, which we have already begun to undertake, but, ultimately, policy and regulation form a vital part of the holistic approach”.

“You will see some of that in the months and years to come under this Government because we have accepted that the regulation is necessary. We will begin at the school level, and announcements will be made early in the next fiscal year in relation to the food offerings in the institutions, especially in relation to the matter of sugary drinks,” the Minister informed.

More than 1,400 adults participated in the survey, which was carried out by Hope Caribbean in November 2017 and sought to explore opinions on health priorities in Jamaica as well as a willingness to support policies to address growing obesity challenges locally.

The survey found that the overwhelming majority of Jamaicans (nine in 10) agree that it is important for the Government to be involved in helping to solve the problem of obesity in the country (92%) and for it to take quick action to implement policies to do so (90%).

More than two-thirds (72%) would also support government action to pass and enforce policies that discourage consumption of sugary drinks. Approximately two-thirds (64%) support a tax on sugary drinks. This public support increases to 78% of adults in support of the sugary drinks tax if part of the revenue generated is spent in reducing obesity among children.

More than 80 per cent of parents of children under 16 years are concerned about the effects of sugary drinks on their children’s health.

Dr. Tufton said it is important for the Government to give the necessary support to address the concerns expressed.

“For us to ignore the public perception as well as the scientific findings would be a breach of fiduciary duty to take action to get something done, and public education alone, in this case, will not do it,” he argued.

He added that “policy and regulatory action should, indeed, be placed on the table for consideration and subsequent implementation as we seek to preserve the health of our citizens”.

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