Obesity and Sugar-Sweetened Beverage

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Obesity has noteworthy financial and health costs. Approximately two-thirds of adults and one-fourth of children are obese and overweight, and the ratios perpetuate to rise, which costs the economy a substantial price. Indigenous Australians, outside major suburbs or under subordinate socioeconomic groups, are more inclined to be overweight. Overweight and obesity has led to a higher likelihood of chronic conditions and death and has high costs for the economy. To address this problem, there have been approaches through laws and regulations, tax and price interventions, community-based interventions including those in schools and workplace and public education through platforms such as social marketing campaigns (AIHW, 2017). The Federal Government's approach to introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) is one of the interventions to address rising obesity. Systematic reviews have found that consumption of SSB is associated with increased energy intake, weight gain and obesity as well as diseases including metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Opinions and arguments on taxing SSB has been put forward by bureaucrats, administrators, national peak health bodies, WHO and Australian beverage council which has been discussed in the essay (Obesity policy coalition, 2019)

Overweight and obesity prevalence in Australia shows that 1 in 10 more Australians is obese today compared to 1995. The pervasiveness of overweight and obesity has escalated among children and adults in all state and territories of Australia since 2007 (Huse et al., 2018). In two decades, the percentage of Australians with a healthy body has decreased, and obese proportion has increased. The growing obesity trend has costly impacts for the individuals and the Australian economy and healthcare system (AIHW, 2018). In Australia, because of overweight and obesity, diseases such as diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, oesophageal cancer, breast cancer, chronic kidney disease, and osteoarthritis are more prevalent. Obesity is a significant risk factor contributing to the development of diseases. If this risk factor is removed or reduced to the lowest possible exposure, diseases could be prevented (AIHW, 2018a). Australian Government introduces a health levy on sugar beverages as an approach to decrease the rates of overweight and obesity which is an established risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, stroke and other certain cancers (Allen & Allen, 2019).

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High body mass index (BMI) and poor diet are now the most significant risk factors contributing to the disease in Australia, and it is ranked ahead of smoking and alcohol-related illness. There has been opposition view on taxing SSB which argue that the individual is responsible for making personal choices and adopting healthier lifestyles and that the Government should not interfere to influence decisions about what to buy and eat. The Government, on the other hand, has high obesity-related costs which include health and welfare costs, foregone tax revenue and reduced productivity. Soft drink consumers do not compensate for additional energy from consumption of SSB's by reducing consumption of other foods, resulting in increased total energy intake. There is a substantial proportion of evidence that an increase in tax applied to tobacco raises the price, reducing consumption and saving lives. Public health advocates argue that imposing higher levies on SSB is in the interest of the society as a whole to reduce the burden that diet, obesity and relates diseases place on the health system and many individuals (Finkelstein et al., 2013). According to, sociocultural point of view of globalization, it appears to play a crucial role with increased cases of obesity and overweight. Globalization processes and the trade and investment policies regulating them have been playing an essential role in making changes to the nutrition status of the population in high, middle and low-income countries. Trade openness contributes to shifts in dietary patterns, increasing dietary diversity and availability of cheap calories and fat reducing undernutrition. However, this is not sufficient to explain the increasing obesity. Foreign direct investment and global flows of information in Low and middle-class income population, including food marketing and advertisement also play a role in consumerism. Information flow and sociocultural aspects have an essential impact on dietary patterns, overweight, obesity and consumption of calories and fats, even dominating the effect of trade and investment flows. It could be exposure to globalized marketing, or it could reflect other lifestyle changes associated with the use of new communications technologies (Cuevas García-Dorado et al., 2019).

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the Government's tax sugary drinks address type 2 diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. Presently, over 30 jurisdictions across the world have introduced an SSB tax as part of their effort and commitment towards preventing and controlling the rise of obesity (Parliament of Australia, 2013). There has been an increase in obesity globally leading to overall health burden because of which some governments are intervening to curb over consumptions of unhealthy beverages, particularly SSB. An example was provided by The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne from the United Kingdom (UK), where as soon as the Government committed to introducing a sugar tax in 2016, companies opted to formulate the sugar content in their drinks again. Within a few days of the proposed tax, the sugar content was reduced to half in the formulation of Sprite, and the amount of Fanta fell from 7 to 4.5grams. Effectiveness of taxes to reduce consumption of SSB is substantially evident. However, the opposition of industries to tax regulation is substantial and enduring (Miller et al., 2020). Soft drink industries claims taxes and regressive and impact most on the people who can least afford it. They claim it is unfair to make more impoverished people pay a larger share of their limited incomes to consume these products. They also claim that taxes on SSB will cause considerable job losses. (OPC.ORG.AU). The industry persists in defending people's right to determine whatever it is they want to use while promoting the concepts of moderation and the importance of a balanced diet (Han, 2017)

Policymakers can frame future policy change on SSB where autonomy is promoted by assisting people to make well-informed decisions for their children and themselves. Changes can be framed around protecting consumers from distorting influences of industry marketing as well as addressing obesogenic environments and economic burden of obesity-associated with sugary drinks. This can be strengthened through provision of simple factual information about the sugar content of SSB and health risk of excess consumption and by creating community awareness regarding ways in which intervention can support rather than infringe autonomy and personal freedom (Zhang et al., 2019). The non-alcoholic industry should be open to work with key stakeholders across the region, including governments, health organizations and allied industries collaboratively and embrace a collective approach to tackle this serious social problem (Backholer & Martin, 2017).

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Obesity and Sugar-Sweetened Beverage. (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/obesity-and-sugar-sweetened-beverage/
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