A high-level policy dialogue workshop took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the rising incidence of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) in Ethiopia and how fiscal measures can help prevent and mitigate its economic, public health, and equity impact.
“NCDs are the leading causes of premature deaths, accounting for 74% of all deaths globally, with 85% occurring in low- and middle-income countries. NCDs, including injuries, are responsible for 52 % of mortality in Ethiopia, and the issue of premature death is also becoming a concern in the country.” Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse said, opening the workshop.
The main NCDs responsible for 80% of all premature NCD deaths globally are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, including kidney disease deaths caused by diabetes.
The growing use of unhealthy products such as tobacco, alcohol, and chewing khat, combined with the fast-growing lifestyle change in the use of sugar-sweetened beverages and trans fats, particularly among young people, is fueling the fast spread of NCDs in Ethiopia.
“If not addressed appropriately, NCDs will cause a substantial impact on the national economy and may eventually undermine the success registered in the health sector.” The Minister stressed.
“Fiscal measures such as excise tax and price increases are essential tools in curbing the impacts of NCDs. The proceeds from tax and price measures on unhealthy products can also reduce NCD-related premature deaths and improve our citizen’s quality of life and economic productivity.” Dr. Lia added.
Held from the 27th to the 28th of April 2023, the workshop was organized by the Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority (EFDA) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) in close collaboration with the Ethiopian Country Office of World Health Organization (WHO-Ethiopia), to sensitize stakeholders on the benefits of fiscal measures in reducing the impact of NCDs and their risk factors and generating recommendations on effective health tax measures.
The workshop also aimed at raising awareness on the magnitude of NCDs, assessing the effects of the 2020 fiscal measures on the price and consumption of unhealthy products, sharing best practices on the role of health tax from countries in the African region and beyond, and deliberate on policy gaps and challenges to strategize how to fast rack implementation towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets.
Acting Representative to the Ethiopian Country Office of World Health Organization (WHO-Ethiopia), Dr. Nonhlanhla Dlamini, in her keynote address, said, “As the intent of excise tax is aimed at tackling the negative public health impact of unhealthy products through reducing consumption, success in this regard, will not only help to meet SDG targets of reducing premature deaths from NCD risk factors but also generates additional excise tax revenue and improve economic productivity in all economic sectors.”
“Given the cross-cutting linkages between NCDs and other SDG goals, achieving SDG target 3.4, which aims ‘to reduce premature mortality from NCDs’ will contribute to efforts to end poverty and hunger (SDGs 1&2) and other goals or vice versa.” the Acting Representative stressed adding ‘NCDs push people further into serious poverty as their management drains their money, increases work absenteeism, and reduce productivity. NCDs remain a development challenge”.
Dr. Dlamini also applauded the government of Ethiopia, the House of People’s Representatives (HOPR), the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Food and Drugs Authority, Civil societies, as well as partners and the media for their role and contribution on the implementation of fiscal measures in Ethiopia.
The policy dialogue was attended by deputy chairs of Health, Social Affairs, Culture, and Sports, as well as Plan, Budget, and Finance Standing Committees of the HOPR, Members of the HOPR, the Minister of Health, the State Minister of Women and Social Affairs, Directors from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Revenue, Ethiopia Customs Commission, Food and Drugs Authority, as well as Executive Directors and representatives of Civil societies, Partners, and the World Health Organization.
Participants of the policy dialogue have discussed, acknowledged, and agreed that there is a need for urgent action to address the growing health and economic burden of NCDs, together with its attendant economic, social, and public health costs.
Participants of the meeting also strongly emphasized that health taxes such as those on tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages need to be evidence-based and cost-effective interventions to reduce the consumption of unhealthy products deemed significant risk factors for NCDs. Health taxes are also accelerators for NCD prevention and financing boosters for SDGs.
Health taxes are particularly effective in protecting the young and the poor since they are more price sensitive and incentivizes them not to start, stop or reduce consumption of unhealthy products. They are a win for public health, a win for revenues, and a win for equity.
Addressing the participants with his keynote address H.E Dr. Kairedin Tezera, Deputy Chair of Health, Social Development, Culture, and Sports Standing Committee with the House of Representatives (HOPR), said his standing committee is working hand in glove with the Ministry of Health, all stakeholders, and partners in drafting, enacting and promulgating bills and proclamations against unhealthy goods and help significantly cut the impact of NCDs in Ethiopia.
However, a series of deliberations and statutory provisions should be undertaken by all stakeholders to generate policy recommendations and bring about the desired change in statutory regulations and behavioral changes that help prevent the spread of NCDs, the parliamentarian stressed.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Ethiopia.