“My Take” on Matters That Matter

Dear reader,

Thank you for visiting this site, in particular, this section titled “My Take”. I plan to use this platform to share my considered view (as far as I am concerned, evidence-informed thoughts) on a number of important matters’.

I begin the series with a very important matter: “taxes, health taxes, food-related health taxes, food-related fiscal policies, or sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes”. I pledge to sufficiently and meaningfully deal with such questions as whether or not food can be, or should be taxed, whether or not African countries can make SSB taxes, and other food-related fiscal policies palatable. Of course, if you get impressed or depressed/disappointed with the content, you can always hit back at me using the comments section. I love to be praised (everyone loves to…), but I am also open to criticism.

In this 4-part series, I focus on Ghana. Born on the 6th of March 1957, Ghana is a relatively young and small country located on the west coast of Africa. Ghana is experiencing a nutrition transition with some evidence of transitioning dietary habits related to urban demographic change. As a consequence, obesity and other diet-related non-communicable diseases (DR-NCDs) are rapidly increasing and have been designated by the Ministry of Health (MOH) as an important public health problem. In response, the government of Ghana has, over the past decade, deployed a number of measures including quite recently, an SSB tax.  Yes, the Ghanaian Parliament on December 20, 2022, debated, voted, and approved a Bill to tax Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) and other commodities– as per the Ghana Excise Duty Amendment Bill, 2022. My take on this is: ‘The government and the people of Ghana should not relent, they should get it done and done right to Promote, Protect and Guarantee the Health of Ghanaians, as morbidity, debility, mortality, and health costs linked to diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) mount’. I unpack this in a 4-part essay.

In Part I, I outline the health harms of SSBs and provide a justification for food-related health taxes as an important public health policy.  In Part II, I restate the concerns and requests that our Coalition - the “Advocating for Ghana’s Health (A4H) Coalition” has presented to the government of Ghana, and reassure Ghana’s food environment stakeholders that a food-related health tax is a win-win-win policy – for government, for public health, and for the industry. In part III, I make good my promise to present the evidence in support of food-related fiscal policies. In Part IV, I share how our food activism work used evidence-informed advocacy and scholar activism to valorize and increase the demand for healthy food policy in Ghana. I give hints at how power asymmetries between “public” and “private” interests confound the promulgation and implementation of these policies.  I hope you find the content useful.

Amos Laar, Ph.D