Global Health and Development Lecture Series: Informing a tax on sugary drinks in South Africa

Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 16:30
Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London

Join us for a special guest lecture with Professor Karen Hofman, University of Witwaterstand School of Public Health, PRICELESS SA, South Africa. 

This event is in partnership with our Global Health and Development Group  

Professor Karen Hofman will discuss the research evidence that informed the tax on sugary beverages in South Africa to be promulgated in 2017/2018 and the political economy of potentially introducing such a levy. 

A growing body of evidence indicates that excessive sugar consumption is driving epidemics of obesity and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) around the world. South Africa (SA), a major consumer of sugar, is the most obese country in Sub Saharan Africa, and 40% of all deaths in the country are NCD related.  Several fiscal, regulatory, and legislative levers could reduce sugar consumption in SA. These low cost instruments are a “Best Buy” and could save lives from obesity related diseases, save health care costs and generate revenue. This talk will focus on a sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) tax first proposed by the SA Treasury in 2016. Prof Hofman will present some of the analysis that informed key SA policymakers, the cost of inaction and discuss lessons learned from other middle income settings. Policies cannot be enacted in a vacuum so the discussion will also focus on the industrial, economic, and societal context. The affected industry actors have been part of the SA economy for over a century and remain influential and the talk will highlight some of the on-going political economy challenges to pass the required legislation. 

This event will be chaired by Franco Sassi, Professor of International Health Policy and Economics.


Karen Hofman is Research Professor at the Wits School of Public Health and since 2009, Director of PRICELESS SA (Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening). She leads policy research to evaluate interventions that provide the biggest return on investment for health both within the health system and across other sectors. Under Karen’s leadership, PRICELESS research has impacted policy and future life expectancy in SA including mandatory regulations on the salt content of processed food. Other analyses demonstrate how scarce resources can be used effectively, efficiently and equitably to have the most impact. PRICELESS is a core partner of iDSI based at the Global Health and Development Group, Imperial College.

A Wits medical graduate, a board-certified paediatrician and clinical geneticist, Karen spent a decade on faculty at Johns Hopkins and subsequently served as Policy Director at the US Fogarty International Center at NIH. She is widely published on global health in peer reviewed local and international journals. Karen is a member of ministerial work stream focused on a benefit package for UHC in SA and was a member of the Childhood Obesity Taskforce. 

Clinical Lecture Theatre, St Mary's Campus, Imperial College London

Paddington, London W2 1NY