Sugary beverages and packaged food high on salt and fat are likely to attract higher taxes in countries like India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where the growing consumption of such products is fuelling obesity, diabetes and heart disorders. Controlling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) was the key agenda discussed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and member states of its Southeast Asian chapter at the regional committee’s 69th meet here.The regional committee, comprising 11 countries, including India, pledged to undertake targeted screening for early diagnosis of NCDs, and regulate eating habits of citizens and sale of food high on sugar, salt and trans fat as they adopted the ‘Colombo Declaration’ on Monday. Health minister J P Nadda, who was present at the high-level meeting, said the government was conscious of the rising burden of NCDs, and already working to control them.
“India was among the first countries to approve and adopt the national multi sectoral action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs,” Nadda said during his address at the opening of the meet, which was attended by over 250 delegates from across the world.After the meeting, Nadda told TOI that the government was also planning to issue specific guidelines for public food consumption. “We are going step by step. It is important to make people awa re of the side effects of unhealthy food.We will also evaluate the proposal to impose higher taxes,” he added. Every year, nearly 5.8 million Indians die of heart and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes.In other words, 1 in 4 Indians is at risk of dying from an NCD before they reach the age of 70.
“This is an important opportunity to reaffirm (our) commitment to the global reaffirm (our) commitment to the global goal of reducing NCD-related premature mortality by one-third by 2030, and to actually map how we will get there. Implementing effective policy solutions is vital to addressing the personal and social tragedy caused by NCDs, as well as their impact on economic development,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director for WHO Southeast Asia.
Ensuring appropriate treatment, robust follow-up, management of referrals and focusing on and expanding NCD services to high-risk populations are key parts of the `Colombo Declaration’. At the meeting, health ministers from the region also committed to dedicated taxation for tobacco and alcohol.