Call for sugar tax as diabetes soars worldwide


closeup of Coca Cola with ice

The number of people living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults, with most living in developing countries. Factors driving this dramatic rise include overweight and obesity, WHO announced says as it commemorates World Health Day.

WHO is marking its annual World Health Day today (7 April), which celebrates the Organization’s founding in 1948, by issuing a call for action on diabetes.

In its first Global report on diabetes, WHO highlights the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease.

Among the key findings from the “Global report on diabetes” are:

  • The number of people living with diabetes and its prevalence are growing in all regions of the world. In 2014, 422 million adults (or 8.5% of the population) had diabetes, compared with 108 million (4.7%) in 1980.
  • The epidemic of diabetes has major health and socioeconomic impacts, especially in developing countries.
  • In 2014, more than one in three adults aged over 18 years were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.
  • The complications of diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. For example, rates of lower limb amputation are 10 to 20 times higher for people with diabetes.
  • Diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012. Higher-than-optimal blood glucose caused an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risks of cardiovascular and other diseases.
  • Many of these deaths (43%) occur prematurely, before the age of 70 years, and are largely preventable through adoption of policies to create supportive environments for healthy lifestyles and better detection and treatment of the disease.
  • Good management includes use of a small set of generic medicines; interventions to promote healthy lifestyles; patient education to facilitate self-care; and regular screening for early detection and treatment of complications.

World Health Day is a time to reflect on our nation’s health and draw attention to the rising obesity rates putting pressure on our health system, says Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore, who called for a sugar tax on soft drinks to combat the problem.

“Diabetes is just one of the chronic diseases caused by obesity and poor diet. Obesity rates are also directly linked to cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The Australian Government need to address the impacts of junk food high in sugar, sodium and fat by implementing levy’s on items such as soft drink,” stated Mr Moore.

“The Lancet study released last week showed for the first time in recorded history there are more overweight people than underweight people in the world. Australia’s obesity level for men and women is at 28% – we can do better,” says Moore.

“Initiatives such as the Health Star Rating is a great example of how to educate people to make healthier choices. But more hard decisions are needed.

“Now is the time for a sugar tax on soft drinks especially after the UK implemented the tax last month.

“The reduction of marketing of junk food and alcohol to children and adults are other ways we can reduce poor consumption habits and improve the health of the Australian population.”

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