ISLAMABAD: The Federal Ministry of National Health Services and Regulation, Friday, issued an official advisory banning the use of sugary products in all the attached departments of the ministry, has announced launching a Rs6.8 billion programme to tackle diabetes in the country which is one of the causes of the use of sugary drinks.

According to the advisory, the caretaker federal health minister has directed for a complete ban on the use of sugary items in subordinate institutions, in a move being hailed as groundbreaking in promoting public health.

This decision heralded as a revolutionary step, underscores the government’s commitment to curbing the prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases linked to sugar consumption.

The ministry directed that sweet products be prohibited from use in official meetings or functions. The rationale behind this directive is that sugary drinks cause communicable and non-communicable diseases, as observed by the Minister of Health.

Highlighting the preventive aspect of the ban, the caretaker health minister emphasized the importance of fostering a healthy environment to mitigate the risk of diseases. He said the government was ensuring effective measures to prevent communicable and non-communicable diseases.

To bolster these efforts, the government has initiated a comprehensive programme, valued at Rs6.8 billion, aimed at preventing diabetes, Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan said.

Dr Jan said his ministry had made large-scale reforms to improve the health sector in a short period of time. Recognising the impact of sugary drinks on individuals of all ages, the minister underscored the necessity of safeguarding the health and well-being of children and youth from the adverse effects of excessive sugar consumption, especially in drinks.

The ban on sweet products, including sugary drinks, was instituted under the directive of the supervising health minister, signalling a collective effort to prioritise public health concerns. This measure not only aligns with the government’s broader agenda of health promotion but also reflects a proactive approach in addressing preventable health issues at their root cause.

According to health experts, “Sugary drinks are one of the major causes of many types of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including heart, diabetes, kidney disease and various types of cancer.”

According to the Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah), there are more than 33 million people living with diabetes in Pakistan. “Another 10 million people are pre-diabetic. Pakistan ranks first in the world with the fastest growth of diabetes. Around 400,000 people die in Pakistan every year due to diabetes and its complications alone. If no immediate measures are taken, by 2045, the number of diabetics in Pakistan will increase to 62 million,” Panah said.

According to multiple studies, sugary drinks are the main reasons behind the spread of diabetes, moreover, it is also a major factor behind obesity and the prevalence of obesity is at epidemic proportions in Pakistan, calling for urgent lifestyle intervention strategies to prevent and manage this important cardio metabolic risk factor.

A study done based on the National Diabetes Survey 2016-17 by using World Health Organization (WHO) Asia Pacific cut-offs revealed shocking results. The overall weighted prevalence of generalized obesity was 57.9 percent (42 per cent in males and 58 per cent in females) and central obesity 73.1 percent (37.3 per cent in males and 62.7 per cent in females). The highest prevalence of generalized obesity was found in Punjab 60 percent, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 59.2 percent. Moreover, the highest prevalence of abdominal obesity was observed in Balochistan 82.1 percent, followed by Punjab 73.3 percent. Obesity (generalized and abdominal) was found significantly associated with diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. These are terrifying statistics throughout the country. To put an end to the spiralling obesity crisis that seems to be going out of control, the government must take all possible measures to reduce the further damage done.

According to health experts, research studies in the past had indicated a huge potential to reduce health expenditure and generate revenue by taxing sugary drinks in Pakistan. A study carried out by the World Bank in 2022 revealed that if the government increases 50 percent federal excise duty on all sugary drinks, it will bring an annual health gain of 8,500 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) along with adding an economic value of $8.9 million to public health and $810 million average annual tax increase in revenue for the next 10 years.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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Muhammad Yasir Ali Feb 23, 2024 12:12pm
Part-1 This is a totally wrong approach.
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Muhammad Yasir Ali Feb 23, 2024 12:13pm
Part-2 Rather than banning sugary items in the offices, he should had instructed to sports department to make daily exercise a mandatory part of job and their KPI too.
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Muhammad Yasir Ali Feb 23, 2024 12:14pm
Part-3 Secondly, our public and private and schools lacks sports facilities like ground etc and even if they have facilities but they are not using it due to lack of proper human resource.
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Muhammad Yasir Ali Feb 23, 2024 12:14pm
Part-4 Government should establish play grounds in the cities to promote physical activities rather than confronting sugar item related business.
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