Topic South Africa has a dual burden of developed world lifestyle diseases as well as diseases typically associated with poverty. Malnutrition is a concern, as even when obtaining sufficient calories food consumption choices are often not healthy ones, and a significant proportion of the population is obese which leaves them open to risk of strokes, diabetes and heart disease.
The cost of this behaviour extends beyond the individuals concerned as the public health system is funded by other taxpayers who would bear the cost of their illness. Lost productivity also results from the ill health of workers.
Consider the situation where you are advising the Ministry of Health on policies to alter individual’s food consumption decisions. The Ministry of Health has two key concerns.
Firstly, and primarily, it wants to alter the behaviour of poor consumers to incentivise the consumption of adequate amounts of healthy food.
Secondly, it wants to avoid the implementation of a policy that further reduces the income of poor consumers. Importantly, your policy advice must be grounded in sound economics.
Your argument should cover the following issues:
• Why might individuals make unhealthy food choices to begin with?
• How could one incentivise healthier eating?
What implications may this have for affected individuals?
• How could one incentivise healthier food consumption decisions without materially impoverishing these individuals?
• What individual and social benefits might result if your policy advice is effective?
In answering these questions, demonstrating understanding and mastery of the analytical tools presented in the consumer theory section of the course is your primary aim.