ISLAMABAD: In a measure aimed at setting an example, under the direction of interim Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has issued an advisory with the direction to implement a ban on the consumption of sweetened sugary beverages during official meetings within the ministry and its attached departments.

“The initiative aims to set a positive example, encouraging healthier lifestyle choices and fostering an environment that prioritises employee well-being,” said the ministry’s spokesperson, Sajid Shah.

“Encouraging healthier habits through the advisory is aligned with the ministry’s dedication to dissuading the intake of sugary beverages, serving as a model in public health advocacy. This supports the broader mission of promoting healthier lifestyles and diminishing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the population,” he added.

As per the 2019 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report, there is an increasing burden associated with the four primary NCDs in Pakistan, contributing to heightened morbidity and premature mortality.

NCDs can be prevented by reducing the main risk factors causing them, including the use of tobacco, harmful use of alcohol, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and air pollution.

The potential to limit NCD mortality and morbidity can be achieved through appropriate public health strategies aimed at disease prevention, risk factor control, and health promotion.

One major contributor to the rise in NCDs is the excessive consumption of sugary beverages, which are high in added sugars and contribute to various health issues.

Meanwhile, Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah) Secretary General Sanaullah Ghumman has commended the decision of the health ministry.

In a statement, Mr Ghumman said the minister had implemented a comprehensive ban on sugary drinks, recognised as a significant contributor to NCDs, within the ministry and its subordinate entities.

“This proactive measure is appreciated by Panah and other civil society organisations, who recognise it as a positive step towards reducing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases in Pakistan,” he said.

Mr Ghumman added that Dr. Jan had made a commitment almost three weeks ago during a meeting with Panah, and finally it has materialised into a concrete action. “Dr Nadeem Jan, in his brief tenure, has demonstrated a dedication to public health by taking significant measures and reforms, including the prohibition of sugary drinks,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2024

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