Dr calls for sugar tax to fight chronic disease
A PROMINENT doctor has reignited calls for a sugar tax, in order to prevent the Far North's chronic disease rate from climbing even higher.
Apunipima Cape York Health Council has launched a federally-funded social media campaign, to discourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from consuming sugary drinks.
The "Sugary Drinks Proper No Good - Drink More Water Youfla" campaign, featuring videos by NRL legend Scotty Prince.
It calls on people to drink water instead of sugary drinks, like soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks.
The campaign has been launched to tackle the high rate of chronic diseases in the Far North such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Apunipima public health medical advisor Dr Mark Wenitong said a sugar tax placed on junk food and beverages would go a long way to helping reduce this rate.
"We've seen this happen in a few South American countries, in Mexico," he said.
"If those countries can introduce (a sugar tax) as a health benefit to their population, then I don't see why we can't.
"I know the beverage industry will often say 'this will affect the most disadvantaged people, because they'll have to pay', our answer to that is, it's killing most disadvantaged people already, because they've got higher risk factors.
"It affects their chronic disease status more than other people in Australia."
Cairns Hospital, earlier this year, became one of the first hospitals in Queensland to implement strategies to restrict patient and staff access to soft drinks.
Vending machines and the two cafes at the hospital only sell sugar-free soft drinks.
Dr Wenitong said the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service should go an extra step by restricting other junk food being sold at its facilities, like chocolate bars and chips.
"At some stage, I think they'll have to think about the accessibility of those things, particularly for younger people," he said.
"I don't think it's a bad idea, by at least making them less visible and less accessible, so kids just don't see them and want them."
CHHHS executive director Tina Chinery said they had received no complaints from patients, staff or visitors when their healthier drink strategy was rolled out earlier this year.
"Healthcare facilities play an important role in promoting the health and wellbeing of
patients, staff and visitors," she said.
"Cairns Hospital is leading by example and creating environments that support patients, staff and visitors to make healthy choices easy."