inVentiv Influencers: Article By Abigail Perrault; Copywriter - GSW NYC
Geneva, Switzerland – Since the 19th century, the soda manufacturing industry has sustained its ability to turn a sweet profit. And as you could have guessed, the U.S. has led the way in soda consumption. According to this 2011 consumer report, the average American drank nearly 45 gallons of soda over the span of a single year.
But the US isn’t the only country with a sweet tooth—soda consumption has been on the rise in low and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is because the soft drink industries are developing in emerging markets such as Cameroon and Vietnam.
While this might look economically hopeful, the World Health Organization (WHO) isn’t having any of the industry’s sweet talk. Rather, the WHO’s accompanying report claims, soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages contribute significantly to the global burden of diet-related diseases, including diabetes and obesity. These are serious threats to public health; over 30% of adults worldwide are currently considered overweight, and diabetes directly claims more than 1 million lives each year.
So the WHO has been busy at work creating a plan to put an end to the sugar trend. And it all starts with saying so long to soda.
Well…cheap soda, for starters. Last week, the WHO released a carefully-designed fiscal plan urging countries to slap a hefty tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in the hopes of curbing the global obesity epidemic. The proposed 20% tax is expected to lower the consumption of sugary drinks by the same proportion. The WHO cites several case studies of similar tax programs, such as Mexico’s 2013 sugary-drink tax that lowered consumption by nearly 10%.
The plan also includes combining the taxing program with subsidies for fruits and vegetables, lowering the cost of healthier alternatives. The report projects that this tax plan will have the greatest positive impact on the health of low-income populations.
Why It Matters
Healthcare isn’t just about treating symptoms once they arise. Certain foods, environments, and lifestyle habits can either reduce or exacerbate health risks for many conditions. This is particularly true of conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
But changing lifestyle habits to improve individual health isn’t always a simple matter. These factors are highly influenced by what options are most accessible to individuals and communities. For instance, price can be a huge barrier that stands in the way of eating healthy for low-income populations. Costly, hard-to-access healthy-eating options (paired with widely available cheap fast-food) create food deserts – areas where the average diet is often poor due to these structural and environmental factors.
While it will be up to individual governments to decide whether or not to implement the suggested policy, this multi-pronged plan has the potential to have a big impact on a global epidemic.
I’ll drink (water) to that!
Abbey Perreault is a copywriter at GSW, interested in women's health, neuroscience, and the history of scientific storytelling. When she's not writing, she can be found running, making music, or thinking of ways to make tasteful puns.