The BVI Diabetes Association which has planned a week of activities in observance of World Diabetes Day told the media during a press conference on 7 November that it may propose that Government tax sodas and sweets. The disclosure was made by Chairman of the BVI Diabetes Association, Mr. Elton Georges.
“On the level of policy, that is where the big impacts can be made. Ban the sodas and these drinks, and sweets, or put the taxes on them so high,” the Chairman said. He further explained that making sodas and sweets more expensive may assist in lower sugar consumption. One on-looker said sodas should have a tax that will bring their price at $10 per can or bottle.
However, as the discussion on the soda tax progressed Chairperson of the Virgin Gorda Diabetes Association, Franka Pickering opined that a tax might have a down side: “We will still have Kool Aid and those, so same sugar…Maybe we can propose smaller serving cups,” she said.
Ms. Pickering said that she hopes that the smaller serving size is considered and people wouldn’t mind “they will still be drinking something, just not that much,” she added.
Meanwhile, Tortola Central Diabetes Group President Astrid Wenzke bemoaned the fact that sugary drinks and unhealthy foods are being sold within close proximity to schools.
The members of the Diabetes Association also stated that they intend to take their healthy eating message to the schools and are specifically targeting the PTA which the Association said is key.
Dialysis and Diabetes
Every time the term diabetes is raised by the Minister of Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton the terms kidney disease and dialysis are associated with it. This is because of the awesome cost the government has had to incur for dialysis treatment.
The situation was raised with the Diabetes Association during their press conference and it was noted that the organization is cognizant of the issue; and is hoping its prevention message makes a difference in the figures. Mr. Georges said: “This is one of the things we stress in our awareness talks. Diabetes affects almost every organ in the body. Kidney problems are of the most dramatic effects that diabetes can lead to. It’s not everyone on dialysis is diabetic, but majority are.”
He added: “Dialysis is spectacular because of its cost and the physical toll on the persons who have to do it, but the cost is tremendous. The machinery at the hospital needs to be maintained and staff needs to be trained.”
Funding and Members Needed
Mr. Georges explained that funding is an urgent need of the Association which over the last few years recorded over $100,000 expenditure. He noted that the government gives the organization $35,000 towards the budget.
However, in consideration of the total expenditure amount he said that the organization has had to rely heavily on donations. “The Association needs the support of the public, we need a strong financial support from the public…We need a much greater and wider financial support and we are urging companies, corporations, to put the BVI Diabetes Association on their list of charities to keep in mind for their charitable donations,” he said.
The Chairman further noted that Diabetes is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases affecting the Territory. He suggested that more people should support the work of the Association: “We are making the point that diabetes will affect a larger percentage of the population of the Territory, their own employees, families of their employees…so in terms of importance and impact I think that it is fair to say that it takes priority.”
The Association also used the press conference to note its continuous membership drive: “We need members. We have fewer than 50 members out of a population of over 30,000 people, and given the amount of people we help, that’s a very small number of members.”
It was stated that the organization especially requires young members: “We need their minds, their ideas, their hands, their strength to help and their energy to work.”
During the membership appeal Ms. Pickering stated “Most of our members are older people, and most of them are phasing out…Many people think you have to be a diabetic to join the association, but that is not true.”