Health policy experts and government officials came together to discuss control mechanisms aimed at reducing the consumption of sugary substances and addressing the rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria.
The discussions took place at a summit organised by Gatefield in collaboration with the National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR) Coalition and the World Bank.
The special adviser to the president on health, Dr. Salma Anas highlighted the severity of NCDs in the country and stressed the need to allocate more resources to the health sector. She called for continuous advocacy to raise awareness about health challenges and improve health outcomes for all Nigerians.
Founder of Medicaid Cancer Foundation (MCF), Dr. Zainab Bagudu expressed support for the sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) tax, seeing it as an important step to generate funds for strengthening the health system. However, she urged the government to allocate the SSB tax revenue to the health sector for maximum impact.
President of the Nigeria Cancer Society, Dr. Adamu Alhassan Umar pointed out that NCDs, including chronic conditions like cancer and type 2 diabetes, are on the rise in Nigeria. He emphasised the importance of taxing SSBs at a higher rate to achieve optimum health impact.
Senior health specialist at the World Bank Group, Dr. Olumide Okunola noted that Nigeria’s health financing is inadequate, with the country raising less than six percent of its GDP for health services. He stressed the need for increased healthcare financing to provide meaningful services to citizens.
Director of the Centre for Diabetes Studies at the University of Abuja, Prof. Felicia Anumah highlighted the cost of managing Type 2 diabetes and emphasised the significance of prevention as the most cost-effective approach.
Executive director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi advocated for pro-health taxes as a win-win for the government, generating more income while promoting better health outcomes.
President of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), Dr. Pamela Ajayi called for subsidising health insurance to ensure vulnerable people have access to healthcare. She also stressed the need for health education and preventative measures.
A public health physician and health policy advocate, Dr. Laz Eze viewed the SSB tax as a means towards reducing NCDs in the country. He emphasised the importance of lifestyle modification and prevention.
Health communication specialist at Gatefield, Ms. Omei Bongos-Ikwue highlighted the need for SSB tax policies to align with primary objectives, either raising revenue for healthcare or reducing the health harms of SSB consumption.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria is experiencing a surge in NCDs, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. NCDs are linked to lifestyle risk factors, including the consumption of SSBs.
The current administration has identified revenue generation as a priority, and pro-health policies like SSB taxes have proven to be valuable sources of revenue while discouraging harmful consumption.
To address the rise in NCDs and provide adequate healthcare financing, experts emphasized the need for increased investment in health and the implementation of effective policies to curb the consumption of sugary substances. These measures are expected to lead to better health outcomes and contribute to economic growth in the country.