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Policy Win

March 6, 2023

Combating Diet-Related Non-Communicable Diseases in the Caribbean

In the past year, victories in Grenada and Barbados have galvanized civil society partners of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) and other public health advocates in their fight to reduce diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Caribbean.

Grenada announced in December 2022 that it would increase its SSB tax from 15% to 20%, in line with the World Health Organization's recommended minimum. The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) played an active role in supporting local civil society organizations (CSOs) in advocacy and communication campaigns, sharing best practices covering the range of healthy food policies including SSB taxes in the region through webinars, social media and providing one-on-one technical support on evidence-based advocacy. The organization mobilized support through traditional and digital media campaigns and engaged with government officials through social media to promote the benefits of an increased SSB tax, including newly elected Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell.

GHAI’s partners in Barbados are working to implement the country’s new policies that aim to curb diet-related NCDs following two major victories in 2022, including a decision to raise the SSB tax to 20% and a ban on the sale and marketing of SSBs in and around schools. GHAI partner, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB), is working to make sure the school nutrition policy is implemented by working directly with schools on best practices, sending youth advocates to speak at schools and developing a School Nutrition Policy Monitoring App to enable better Government monitoring and evaluation of the regulation. HSFB also leverages its partnerships with the Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, consisting of medical professionals, CSOs and university researchers, to support advocacy efforts around the SSB tax.

In both cases, the advocates will be closely monitoring how these policies are implemented, a crucial component toward realizing the public health benefits of these new laws. Local CSOs will continue to support their governments through the implementation process by making sure they and the relevant stakeholders are equipped with up-to-date information and research and provided technical assistance with monitoring and evaluation and communications. They will also work to hold their governments accountable by asking the difficult questions should the policies be delayed. Lastly, they will counter food and beverage industry efforts to weaken and repeal these regulations through public engagement and grassroots organizing and by communicating with government leaders the strong public support for these policies and the urgency of their implementation to curb the alarming increase of diet-related NCDs in their countries.

As the Caribbean continues its momentum in addressing diet-related NCDs, GHAI is working with its partners: facilitating coalitions to identify opportunities for further policy wins and provide the necessary research, technical support, and advocacy and communications strategies needed to sustain this progress.