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ISLAMABAD: On the occasion of ‘World Obesity Day’ on Friday, health experts and advocates in Pakistan have raised alarm bells on the growing crisis of obesity in the country and called upon the government to take immediate policy measures to mitigate the situation.

They stated this during a meeting at Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH).

Dr Abdul Basit, Secretary General of the Diabetic Association of Pakistan (DAP) said that Pakistan is facing a growing obesity crisis that is affecting the health and well-being of its citizens. He said that one significant factor contributing to the obesity epidemic in Pakistan is the consumption of sugary drinks. Studies have shown that high consumption of sugary drinks is linked to weight gain and obesity, especially in children.

Dr Basit pointed out the growing concern in international health bodies and said that Andrew Boulton (President) and Akhtar Hussain (President-Elect) from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) wrote a letter few months ago to the governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including Pakistan, to take immediate policy steps to reduce consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) and decrease the crippling burden of obesity and type 2 diabetes on national health systems.

Sanaullah Ghumman, secretary general of PANAH lamented the situation and said that contrary to these risks, sugary drinks are readily available everywhere in Pakistan and heavily marketed, often targeted towards children. These drinks are high in calories, low in nutritional value, and can lead to an energy imbalance that contributes to weight gain, he said.

Munawar Hussain, advisor to the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) stressed the importance of fiscal policy measures and demanded that the government should increase taxes on sugary drinks to slow down the impending obesity crisis. He said that sugary drink taxes are a triple-win, as they are cost-effective policy options that can improve population health, increase government revenue, and reduce health care and environmental costs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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