At a time when spending on health is arguably more important than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic, the federal Health Ministry’s budget has been significantly reduced.
The ministry’s budget was cut by 1.88 billion pesos (US $84.5 million at today’s exchange rate) between January and May, according to Finance Ministry reports.
A total of 128.83 billion pesos (US $5.8 billion) was expected to be allocated to the ministry in the first five months of the year but it only received 126.94 billion, a 1.5% reduction. The spending cuts were spread across a range of areas.
The Health Ministry’s epidemiological surveillance program saw its budget slashed from 249.4 million pesos to 152.5 million, a 39% reduction, while the department headed up by coronavirus czar Hugo López-Gatell, the office of the deputy minister for disease prevention and control, saw its funding reduced from 192.7 million pesos to 145.7 million, a 24% cut.
Funding for Health Ministry programs aimed at preventing and controlling obesity and diabetes, two of the most prevalent health problems among people who have lost their lives to Covid-19, was cut from 451.3 million pesos to 219.2 million between January and May, a reduction of 51%.
A federal deputy with the Citizens Movement party said the reduction in funding for obesity and diabetes prevention programs was among the most concerning budget cuts in the first five months of the year.
Martha Tagle said that it was “inconceivable” that spending on programs directed at dealing with some of the main health problems in Mexico had been reduced.
She said that the government is collecting billions of pesos in revenue from taxes on soft drinks and junk food, and that money should be directed at programs to combat obesity and diabetes. Preventing and treating those problems among children should be a priority, Tagle added.
Her remarks came just days after López-Gatell said that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on Mexico due to the high prevalence of diet-related chronic diseases.
The deputy health minister said that if people had diets free of junk food and sugary drinks – which he described as “bottled poison” – the impact of any virus on the population of Mexico would be less.
As of Tuesday, 40,400 people had lost their lives to Covid-19 in Mexico, according to official data.
Based on confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, Mexico’s fatality rate is 11.3 per 100 cases, well above the global rate of 4.1.
Source: Reforma (sp)