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‘Taxing carbonated drinks will reduce rate of diseases’

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Policies for the taxing of carbonated drinks will help Nigeria beat non-communicable diseases and boost economic productivity, a public health physician and founding member of the National Action on Sugar Reduction Coalition, Dr Laz Ude Eze, has said.

He noted that the country is combating three concurrent health epidemics: communicable diseases (including COVID-19 and cholera), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and road traffic injuries.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2016, estimated that NCDs accounted for about 29 per cent of deaths in Nigeria, which is equivalent to about 2.1million lives that are lost on average to NCDs.

He said: “Many of the documented risk factors associated with NCDs are lifestyle and choice-based. Behavioural risk factors such as excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), inadequate physical activity, tobacco smoking and high caloric intake. None of these has been helped by the urban sedentary lifestyle and diet transition to processed foods and beverages.

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“In Nigeria, the consumption of SSBs is a leading risk factor for NCD-related deaths. According to a 2016 global soft drinks market analysis, Nigeria is the fourth highest consumer in the world market for soft drinks, coming after the United States, China and Mexico.

“With about 38.7 million litres of soft drinks sold yearly and a rising trend in the obesity figures, Nigeria is currently a minefield of NCD-related deaths.

“At the policy level, several instruments are in place to address the root causes of communicable diseases and road traffic injuries, which have been, arguably, successful.

“For NCDs, this is still a work-in-progress. Despite the WHO statistics on the number of deaths resulting from NCDs in Nigeria, this health crisis is yet to be considered a national priority.

“Millions of Nigerians live with and die from type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, fatty liver disease, tooth decay, gout arthritis and increased risk of cancers. Besides the loss of lives, several billions of dollars are lost to health care and productivity costs.

“A 2014 study by Wang Y.C et al found that a 20 per cent tax raise on SSB prices can reduce consumption by around 20 per cent. Two years after South Africa introduced its health promotion levy targeting SSBs, a study by PRICELESS-SA reported that the “sugar tax” led to a reduction in consumption, while taxes from consumers have been used to strengthen the country’s health system. Nigeria can do the same.

“SSB tax policies work because they operate on a population level to create an environment that empowers many people to practice healthy behaviours rather than only a few. This is not a novel idea anymore; countries all over the world have been taxing SSBs with great results. Mexico, for instance, recorded a 9.5 per cent reduction in the purchase of SSBs in 2015; a year after the 1 peso per litre excise tax was introduced.

“Nigeria came close to introducing a similar levy on SSBs but suspended it in 2009 due to industry pressure and global economic concerns.

“Clear labels that carry warnings such as ‘excessive sugar consumption increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes’ should accompany every SSB product and advertising. Schools and workplaces should provide healthier SSB alternatives.

“Despite the harsh economic situation and the burden of managing the COVID-19 pandemic, doing nothing about NCDs is not an option. “Consequently, I am excited that the Federal Government has announced a “pro-health” tax increase on soft drinks in Nigeria in the 2022 budget. This tax will enable revenue generation for health programmes, especially those targeted at addressing the NCDs.”

The Nation

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Resident doctors threaten strike, gives FG two-week ultimatum 

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The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has given the Federal Government a two-week ultimatum to implement the agreement reached on the welfare of its members.

The association gave the ultimatum after its national executive council meeting on Saturday in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital.
The association said should the FG fail to comply with its demands, it would embark on an industrial action.

The communique was signed by Dare Ishaya, NARD president; Suleiman Abiodun, the secretary-general, and Alfa Yusuf, publicity and social secretary.
“The NEC observed with dismay, the unnecessary delay in the implementation and payment of the new Hazard Allowance for over seven (7) months since its approval on 22nd December 2021 in a circular with reference No. SWC/S/04/S.218/11/406,” the communique reads.
“The NEC observed that the skipping arrears covering 2014, 2015 and 2016 have remained unpaid despite several negotiations with the Federal Government over the matter.”
The association alleged that years after the implementation of a new minimum wage, some of its members are yet to benefit from the adjustment.
NARD also expressed displeasure over the condition of its members in Imo, Ondo, Ekiti and Gombe states who are “owed 10, 5, 3 and 2 months respectively”.
The association urged the federal government to expedite action on the payment of the newly reviewed Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF).
“The NEC demands the immediate implementation and payment of the new Hazard Allowance and arrears as contained in the circular from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) dated 22nd December 2021 with reference number SWC/S/04/S.218/11/406 within two (2) weeks, ” the communique read.
“The NEC demands immediate payment of consequential adjustment of minimum wage to our members who have been deprived this benefit since it was implemented several years ago.
“The NEC demands an immediate review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and other related allowances given the current economic situation in the country, and also in line with the agreed terms from the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that it will be reviewed regularly.
“The NEC enjoins the Federal and all State Governments to look into the issue of assault on doctors and thoroughly investigate the ongoing cases and put measures in place to nip this menace in the bud to forestall future occurrences, as these inhumane acts have affected our members both physically and mentally.
“The NEC urges the Federal Government to take steps toward curtailing the brain drain in the health sector and find ways of eliminating all bureaucratic bottlenecks in the employment and replacement of the Resident Doctors leaving our institutions daily to seek greener pastures.”
The association said it will reconvene in two weeks to review the “progress made so far and take further actions for which nationwide industrial harmony may not be guaranteed.”

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NIMR Discovers New Severe Malaria Vector In Northern Nigeria

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The Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) says it has discovered a new malaria vector named Anopheles stephensi in northern Nigeria.

According to Wikipedia, Anopheles stephensi is a primary mosquito vector of malaria in urban India and is included in the same subgenus as Anopheles gambiae, the primary malaria vector in Africa.

It is a highly competent vector of Plasmodium Falciparum and P. Vivax, considered an efficient vector of urban malaria.

The Anopheles stephensi mosquito has long since been considered an Asian malaria vector. It is native to parts of South-East Asia and parts of the Arabian Peninsula

Director General of the Institute, Professor Babatunde Salako, told newsmen in Lagos during his 63rd birthday ceremony on Monday night that the discovery was one of the institute’s recent research discoveries.

The vector, according to him, spreads malaria called plasmodium falciparum.

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He described the vector as a rugged one that is very difficult to eradicate.

“This has implication for malaria control in Nigeria because hitherto, the vector was known in West Africa sub-region,” he said.

Professor Salako further disclosed that the Institute is currently looking at vaccine development as a lot of studies have been done. According to him, the institute is working with five groups in a consortium to develop local vaccines in Nigeria.

He explained that development of vaccine, which the institute is into, is different from vaccine production.

The idea behind the vaccine development, he said, is to ensure that Nigerian researchers are able to learn the development process from the beginning to the end.

“This is important so that when we have a new epidemic or disease, known or unknown, it would be possible for Nigeria to develop its own vaccine,” Salako added.

He further disclosed that the institute is working on testing 2,000 people in Nigeria with a view to knowing whether the three COVID-19 vaccines evoked a response or not and also also to know how long it can be effective in their bodies.

“The essence of this is to know the effectiveness, side effects and responsiveness of human body to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

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Monkeypox common among gay men – WHO

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The monkeypox outbreak is prevalent among men who have sex with men, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said this on Saturday at a media briefing where he declared the multi-country monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of global concern.

He said, “So, in short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the International Health Regulations.

“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners.

 

“That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.

“It’s therefore essential that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to design and deliver effective information and services, and to adopt measures that protect both the health, human rights and dignity of affected communities.”

A study published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine also revealed that cases of monkeypox are prevalent among men who have sex with  men.

According to the study, out of 528 infections diagnosed between April 27 and June 24, 2022, at 43 sites in 16 countries, 98 percent of the persons with infection were gay or bisexual men.

“These data point clearly to the fact that infections are so far almost exclusively occurring among men who have sex with men,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University.

“And the clinical presentation of these infections suggest that sexual transmission, not just close physical contact, may be helping spread the virus among this population.”

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