A push to make the Pacific sugary drink free by 2030
Health experts, university professors, dentists and dietitians are wanting to make the Pacific sugary-drink free by 2030.
A number of health experts, university professors, dentists and dietitians are wanting to make the Pacific sugary-drink free by 2030.
The delegates gathered at a symposium in Auckland, aimed at reducing the consumption of sugary drinks like fizz, cordials, flavoured milks and energy drinks in the Pacific and New Zealand.
Leilani Momoisea reports.
The delegates say sugar sweetened beverages, or SSBs are major contributors to obesity, diabetes, rotten teeth and gout. The acting director of the public health division at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dr Paula Vivili, says sugary drinks are all part of the bigger picture of non-communicable diseases. He says up to 75 percent of the deaths in the Pacific are due to non-communicable diseases, with sugary drinks contributing to this in a big way.
PAULA VIVILI: In terms of obesity, 10 out of the top 10 countries in the world with the highest rates of obesity and overweight is from the Pacific, and of course sugar sweetened beverages are a big risk factor for this. If you look at diabetes, top ten countries in the world with the highest rate of diabetes is also from the Pacific, SSBs is also a big part of this.
The co-ordinator of the Pacific Research Centre for the Prevention of Obesity and Non-communicable diseases is Dr Wendy Snowden. She says the main problems that exist in the Pacific with sugary drinks are very similar to New Zealand - there is a high availability of the drinks, they come at a low price and there is heavy marketing for them.
WENDY SNOWDEN: In a lot of the Pacific Island countries, access to drinking water is a problem, certainly in some locations, so you do need access to bottled drinks. The water is generally more expensive than bottled soft-drinks or canned soft-drinks then people choose the cheapest, they are readily available, they are heavily marketed, there's good reasons why people are drinking a lot of them.
Dr Wendy Snowden says pricing up the drinks, by imposing an excise tax on drinks containing sugar, would be a key approach to tackling the issue. She says controlling the access of these drinks to children in schools for example, and having controls on marketing, or counter-marketing, of the drinks are other ways of helping reduce their consumption. Dr Snowden says political will is key, and there are a number of Pacific nations that are already doing a lot of good.
WENDY SNOWDEN: There's countries that have limited access in schools, they've taken them all out of vending machines, the sugary drink, there are countries that have implemented higher taxes on soft-drink, and lowered the taxes on water so to shift the balance between those as well. So there has been a lot of political will to do something about improving diet in the islands but there's more work that needs to be done.
Nick Pak, who researched the production, trade and consumption of sugary drinks in the Pacific, says people are aware of how bad smoking is for their health. But people don't really think about the negative health effects of sugar sweetened drinks.
NICK PAK: The most fundamental thing the wider public needs to realise is that sugar sweetened beverages, which isn't just soft-drinks, sweetened milk, fruit juice, cordial is another one of course, sugar and water, all of these things, the negative health effects are becoming more and more well documented.
The conference delegates are wanting sugary drinks to be treated in the same manner as tobacco, to eventually phase them out altogether by 2030.
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