Sugar tax key to addressing diabetes in Australia

The AMA has told a parliamentary inquiry the introduction of a sugar tax and a much stronger focus on prevention and addressing inequities in the health system could mitigate the $3.1 billion cost of diabetes in Australia.

Taxing the sugar in soft drinks is one example of a measure the AMA says could help address the growing costs to the health system of more than 1.3 million Australians living with diabetes.  

Two in three adults, and one in four children are also living with overweight or obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.

The AMA’s submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport’s Inquiry into Diabetes in Australia says health data shows that preventable disease resulting from people being overweight and/or obese accounts for 18 per cent of health spending ($4.3 billion).

AMA President Professor Steve Robson said preventive health measures not only saves lives, but also takes pressure off the health system in the long term.

“The AMA would like to see all levels of government do more with preventive health policies that lead to positive health outcomes and save the economy money.

“We’ve seen the success sugar taxes have overseas in reducing consumption of soft drinks, which deliver around 12-teaspoons of sugar per can.

“We also support restricting advertising of unhealthy food and harmful products targeted at children to improve health outcomes and wellbeing for our children,” Professor Robson said.

The AMA’s submission says health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions a person lives under, and to achieve health equity, governments must focus not only on treating disease and modifying risk factors, but also on tackling the underlying social determinants of health.

“This includes systemic inequities that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, resulting in disproportionately high levels of diabetes, with almost eight per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with the condition. This very often leads to chronic kidney disease.”

Read the AMA’s submission.

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