Public Health England has called for sugar-sweetened drinks to be cut from children’s daily diets and Jamie Oliver and others are calling a for a heavy tax on sugary drinks.
Others have questioned the degree of focus on the single element of sugary drinks and emphasised the need to adopt a rounded health promotion approach.
Michael Watson and John Lloyd responded to the BMJ in August on the subject of a sugar tax arguing that this should form one part of a multifaceted campaign which would be population based and multi-sectoral.
For their response see: BMJ 2015:351:h43
Taxing sugar should be just one element of a multi-faceted campaign
We agree that sugar sweetened drinks should be taxed but on its own this policy may have little effect and may even be counter productive
In addition to fiscal measures, a diverse range of approaches is needed, such as developing personal skills, creating supportive environments and reorienting health services so that they move towards health promotion. In the past there has been too much focus on individuals. An approach to health education that focuses on individuals rather than the external forces that influence them may result in victim blaming and be ineffective. We need to transform our obesogenic environments into health promoting ones, and taxation is one way to do this.
Schools are an important setting in health promotion where more could be achieved. Teachers, catering staff and school nurses are just some who have potentially have important roles to play, but they will need external support to fulfil their health promoting roles. A vital first step would be the re-introduction of the Healthy Schools initiative.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions and should be considered one of the most serious public health challenges because its consequences include heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Curbing this epidemic will require a population based multisectoral approach. Fiscal measures are needed but should be just one element of a multifaceted campaign. Urgent action and a shift in momentum are needed so that we do not abrogate our responsibility to the next generation