New Bill Taxing Beverage, Tobacco Industry To Fund Healthcare

Abid Lodhi 07:26 PM, 9 Nov, 2021
New Bill Taxing Beverage, Tobacco Industry To Fund Healthcare
Source: Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

KARACHI: Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health, recently unveiled a plan by the federal government to introduce a ‘Health Contribution Bill’, a move that will collect more taxes from the beverage and tobacco industries and redirect the funds towards health initiatives.

The Pakistan Society organised the national dialogue in honor of World Diabetes Day 2021 alongside the Awareness and Community Empowerment (PACE) and the Discovering Diabetes project. Senior diabetologists, endocrinologists, government officials, and experts from the private sector spoke at the seminar.    

“There is no doubt that we are facing an epidemic of diabetes in Pakistan, and urgency is required to deal with it along with other NCDs. A national action plan will set a direction to deal with four major areas including diabetes and endocrine diseases, mental health, trauma and cancer,” said Dr Faisal Sultan.

“This document would help our followers to deal with these diseases in the years to come”, he assured.

Dr Faisal Sultan maintained that national health services were in talks with the federal education ministry to include straightforward, basic and non-controversial health messages in the single national curriculum.

He added that messages regarding dental care to physical activity, what we need to eat, hazards of tobacco, smoking and drug use would be included in the curriculum to prevent children from many preventable health conditions.  

“A single national curriculum can be an effective tool to convey healthy messages to our children. Awareness can be spread regarding dental care, the importance of physical activity, a healthy diet, hazards of tobacco, smoking and drug abuse”, he said, adding that this could prevent the younger generation from many ailments in future.

Lauding the Discovering Diabetes project and launch of a helpline to identify and track the undiagnosed diabetics in the country, Dr Faisal Sultan said health messages conveyed through caller tunes proved to be another effective tool to convey the health and awareness messages to the people.

Commenting on the growing cost of diabetes care in Pakistan, he said healthcare could not be brought down unless treatment remedies and diagnostic equipment started being manufactured domestically. He claimed that they had established a unique technology zone comprising hundreds of acres of land of the National Institute of Health (NIH) to fetch investments in healthcare technologies imported to lower their costs.   

The SAPM further informed that they were also launching a pilot project comprising some interventions, including prevention and early detection of diabetes in capital Islamabad and added that they were trying to arrange finance to launch this primary healthcare project in all the provinces simultaneously.  

Prof. Abdul Basit, the director at the Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (BIDE), said that they collaborated with all provincial governments to standardise diabetic healthcare. He urged the SAPM to enhance taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages to collect more money, increasing spending on healthcare, especially on the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

Prof. Emerita Dr Tasneem Ahsan, a Consultant Endocrinologist, called for promoting a healthy lifestyle and the importance of a balanced diet among children. She added that Pakistan could not afford to treat millions of people living with diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, whose burden doubled every few years.

Director Health Services Karachi Dr Akram Sultan, Consultant Endocrinologist and pioneer member of Pakistan Endocrine Society (PES) Prof Tasneem Ahsan, Discovering Diabetes Project manager Agha Sadiq, Vice-Chancellor of Dow University Prof Saeed Qureshi, Executive Director JPMC Dr Shahid Rasool, renowned psychiatrist Prof Iqbal Afridi, PMA Secretary-General Dr Qaiser Sajjad, Convener PACE M. Waqar Bhatti and others also spoke at the event. 



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