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Study Reveals The Real Reason Why Soft Drink Companies Are Investing Billions In India And China

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By Jyotsna Singh:

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

A brand new advertisement with a twist starring real people, not actors, is going to haunt international soft drink giant Coca Cola. Washington-based non-profit health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has re-made a 1971 ad of Coke with a change of lyrics. It stars people suffering from diabetes, tooth decay, weight gain, and other diseases related to soda consumption. Originally in English, the ad has been dubbed into many language including Hindi and Chinese.

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In Coke’s “Hilltop”, which was first aired in 1971, actors sing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony; I’d like to buy the world a Coke, and keep it company.” But according to the US-based nonprofit health advocacy organisation behind the new video, CSPI, it is time to change the lyrics.

For decades, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and other makers of sugar drinks have used sophisticated, manipulative advertising techniques to convince children and adults alike that a disease-promoting drink will make them feel happy and even sexy,” said CSPI executive director Michael F Jacobson. “And they are increasingly doing what the tobacco industry has done: market their unhealthy beverages in low and middle-income countries. They are investing billions of rupees in India, China, and other countries to distract us away from tooth decay and diabetes with happy thoughts. We thought it was time to change the tune.”

Jacobson said that because Indians and Chinese drink much less sugar drinks than people in the United States, Europe, and Mexico, companies see those countries are opportunities for huge future profits. However, he said, the increased marketing and consumption of the drinks will inevitably lead to increasing rates of obesity, tooth decay, diabetes, and heart disease.

India’s per capita carbonated beverage consumption was around 0.6 litres in 2013. The Chinese consumption was 1.47 litres per person in the same year. This is way below 19.96 litres among Americans and 20.61 litres in Mexicans. Even in South American countries, consumption of carbonated drinks is high. In Argentina, per capita consumption in 2013 was 16.56 litres, it was 15.37 litres in Chile and 9.72 litres in Brazil.

With companies investing billions of dollars to maximise consumption of sugary soft drinks in India, as well as other low and middle-income countries, those nations must take steps to protect the public’s health,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi.

A paper published in international journal Circulation shows that there were 180,000 deaths in the world in 2010 due to consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, with 72.3 per cent from diabetes, 24.2 per cent from cardiovascular disease, and 3.5 per cent from cancers. The findings demonstrated 75 per cent of deaths in low and middle income countries.

In 2010, 2.7 million deaths occurred due to lack of consumption of fruit and vegetables. Authors of the paper titled Estimated Global, Regional, and National Disease Burdens Related to Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption in 2010, argued that “compared with sodium which is nearly ubiquitous across the food supply, or fruits and vegetables which represent large and diverse classes of foods, sugary soft beverages represent only a single class of beverage.”

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  1. Ajoy Daspurkayastha

    To bring down the GDP growth of any developing country like India and China—this sugary drinks approach plays a vital role and the food regulators must be fully aware of that.
    “Denmark has brought in a “fat tax”, Hungary a “junk food tax” and France a tax on all sweetened drinks. Peru intends to add levies to junk food and Ireland may also introduce such taxes. Mexico Nears Junk Food Tax”. Now, BMA, UK’s proposed 20% tax on sugary-drinks is a welcome move to abate obesity in UK.
    • Ben Spencer, Medical Correspondent For The Daily Mail
    Published: 23:04 GMT, 12 July 2015 | Updated: 07:27 GMT, 13 July 2015
    QUOTE— —The drinks with up TWENTY teaspoons of sugar: Doctors urge ministers to slap a 20% tax on sugary drinks to fight obesity crisis The BMA’s proposed levy on fizzy drinks and sugar-laden juices would help subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables. —-UNQUOTE

    QUOTE—-Taxing soft drinks could reduce obesity and diabetes in India, finds study
    BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 08 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g59
    Dinsa Sachan

    1. 1New Delhi
    New research has found that applying excise tax to sugar sweetened beverages such as soft drinks could reduce obesity and diabetes in India.
    Led by Stanford University researcher Sanjay Basu, a team of scientists from the United Kingdom, United States, and India found that a 20% excise duty on sugar sweetened drinks would prevent 11.2 million new cases of obesity and overweight (a 3% decline) and 400 000 cases of type 2 diabetes (a 1.6% decline) between 2014 and 2023. The study was published in PLOS Medicine.1——-UNQUOTE

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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