The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has announced a package of policies targeting non-communicable disease prevention. Among them is a a policy to include “front of package labeling” on alcohol.
We believe that consumers must know what is in their food and front of package labelling is going to be a critical area of advocacy and hopefully policy change overtime,” said Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness, Jamaica, as per Loop.Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness, Jamaica
Among other announced measures were new tobacco control legislation, a sodium and sugar study to determine baseline sodium and sugar levels in Jamaican’s diet, a sodium and sugar policy, a baseline study on trans fat to support related policies and greater emphasis on breastfeeding policy.
Additionally, a non-communicable disease (NCD) taskforce is being established to support consultation and collaboration as well as research and development in the area of NCD prevention.
According to the minister, 70% of all deaths in Jamaica are due to NCDs. The new measures are targeted to prevent the risk factors of NCDs which include alcohol use, tobacco use, unhealthy diet and lack of physical exercise.
Preventing NCDs is specifically important in the current COVID-19 context. The World Health Organization (WHO) has shown that NCDs increase the risk of having complications from COVID-19 and the risk of death from COVID-19. Alcohol is a risk factor for NCDs and this is one of the many reasons the WHO has advised governments to reduce alcohol availability during COVID-19.
The Minister renewed the government’s commitment to tackling NCDs and the importance of doing so for both public health and the economy of Jamaica. The government will work to strengthen prevention, treatment and care and infrastructure development towards tackling NCDs in Jamaica.
Alcohol harm in Jamaica
As WHO reports, over a third (40.8%) of all Jamaicans who consume alcohol (15+ years of age) engage in binge consumption. Almost half (48.4%) of the alcohol using youth between 15 to 19 years of age engage in binge alcohol consumption.
Despite the harm, Jamaica does not have a comprehensive national alcohol policy model. The proposed alcohol labeling is a step in the right direction, but Jamaica has a long way to go in terms of effective alcohol policy to help reduce the NCD burden in the country.
The best buy measures recommended by the WHO, are evidence-based proven effective alcohol policy solutions, which Jamaica can use to strengthen their alcohol control policies.