THIS BLOG FROM GHANA NCD ALLIANCE IS PART OF OUR MEMBER-AUTHORED SERIES ON NCD INVESTMENT.
Health financing according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is a core function of health systems that can enable progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) hence improving effective service coverage and financial protection. However, millions of people today cannot access quality services due to the high cost involved.
The consumption of unhealthy products such as tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) remain the leading risk factor for the development of chronic health conditions yet prices of these health harming products are unbelievably low, increasing their accessibility and affordability. Despite these facts, one of the lifesaving recommendations by WHO and the ECOWAS Directive urging governments to implement effective tax measures on these products is yet to be materialized.
The Ghana NCD Alliance (GhNCDA), in close collaboration with Vision for Alternative Development (VALD Ghana), advocated for the mainstreaming of NCDs prevention and control in the National Development framework which aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The framework is aimed at providing a priority to the policy direction of government and alignment of development cooperation with national development priorities.
Through our advocacy, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has included a text on financing health by taxing health harming products in the national NCD Policy and Strategy plan as well as a recommendation to establish NCD funds. It is expected that the recognition of tax increment on tobacco, alcohol and other unhealthy products will empower the Ministry of Finance to advance the call for a legislation on tax increment to finance health and development priorities.
Filling the data gap to support healthy policies
CSO actors like VALD Ghana have made several calls for tax increments on unhealthy products; taxation has proven to be a powerful and effective tool in the fight against NCDs. The challenge, however is the lack of local data to advance this argument.
To bridge the data gap, VALD Ghana in collaboration with the GhNCDA and other partners facilitated a study on “The Economics of Tobacco Taxation/Control in Ghana” which aims at creating insights into how price policies and taxes can reduce consumption of tobacco products and related harms; as recommended by the Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Further, the GhNCDA also conducted a study on “Alcohol Use in Ghana: A Situational Analysis”. Both reports sought to provide understanding of the real impacts of health harming products on the entire ecosystem of Ghana. The Deputy Minister of Health who launched the report, lamented the significant threat of alcohol consumption to Ghana’s health system and the economy, hence losing productive labor due to alcohol-related deaths and morbidity.
The reports have received recognition by government and policymakers welcoming proposals to increase taxes on unhealthy products to curtail consumption and generate sustainable funds for health promotion.
Key recommendations included the need to change the tobacco tax structure from the current ad valorem to a mixture or specific; earmarked the taxes, ban packaging of alcohol in sachets, among others to control the availability and affordability of these unhealthy products.
It is satisfactory to witness a multisectoral collaboration between the CSOs actors and Government Institutions working together to identify avenues for sustainable funding for health and the NCDs. This partnership has fostered great relationships and birth some enviable study reports, aimed to advance the public health discourse.
The expectation is that, an increase in taxes on unhealthy products will offer a win-win situation thus raking in alternative domestic revenue to finance specially the National Health Insurance Scheme; which undoubtedly will go a long way to help in the attainment of Ghana’s UHC by 2030 and offer financial protection for people living with NCDs especially.
About the author
Labram M. Musah is currently the National Coordinator of the Ghana NCD Alliance, working diligently to mobilize multi-stakeholder advocacy efforts towards the adoption of alcohol and food policies that protects people who are at risk of or living with NCDs. He doubles as the Executive Director of Programs of the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD-Ghana), the leading organization advocating for stringent tobacco control and alcohol measures including road safety and climate change measures in Ghana. With his proven predisposition to make impact, he serves in other leadership capacities; he is a member of the Africa NCDs Network, Africa Tobacco Control Alliance, Ghana Alcohol Policy Alliance, and more. He has also authored/co-authored several publications.