Wednesday, 29 May, 2024
HomeHealth PolicyNCD Alliance urges stronger action against harmful industries

NCD Alliance urges stronger action against harmful industries

Global action must be beefed up to prevent interference in health policy by industries selling products that harm people, like tobacco, alcohol, ultra-processed food and fossil fuel, urged non-communicable diseases (NCD) experts at a side event at the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week.

“The industries producing and marketing these products are more interested in profit than in healthy people and communities,” said José Luis Castro, president and CEO of Vital Strategies at the side event hosted by his organisation and the NCD Alliance, Health Policy Watch reports.

Citing tactics like “financial enticements, legal battles and other ways to limit the policies such as food, warning, labels, marketing restrictions and taxes on harmful products”, he said the industries wielded their “considerable resources to influence governments to reject or suspend restrictions on these products”, and should be disqualified “from joining the table to share so-called solutions”.

Implementing NCD plan of action

NCDs, including diabetes, heart disease and strokes, are responsible for almost three-quarters of global deaths – 40m lives lost annually.

To help countries deal with the issue, the WHO has devised what it calls “Best Buys” – evidence-based strategies that include taxing unhealthy products (Appendix 3 of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan).

WHO NCD director Dr Bente Mikkelsen said the “Best Buys” comprised 90 interventions, 28 of them “the most cost-effective and feasible for implementation”, and that countries should select these based on “their own epidemiology”.

She conceded, however, that the “commercial determinants” of health – industry influence – are so strong in many countries that they cannot implement some of the recommendations and “it’s all about the country’s leadership”.

Air pollution: elephant in NCD room

Nina Renshaw, head of health at the Clean Air Fund, described the influence of air pollution on NCDs as “the elephant in the room”.

“Seven million deaths per year from air pollution is a really conservative estimate,” she said.

“We know that 40% of COPD deaths are due to air pollution, more than a quarter of strokes and 20% of cardiovascular deaths… 20% of diabetes and 19% of lung cancer deaths. And there’s emerging evidence of causality in dementia and mental health.”

Systems and manipulation

Professor Anna Gilmore, director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, said the problem was “not just a few unhealthy commodity industries and their products, it’s a system”.

The commercial sector undermines the Best Buys by influencing science, she said, pointing to how industry players manipulate impact assessments.

“There are some minimal things we need [from policy-makers] including conflict-of-interest policies and policies on non-engagement with industry. We need to avoid partnerships with vectors of disease and ensure science functions in the public interest.”



Health Policy Watch article – NCD Advocates Call for Stronger Global Action to Curb Harmful Industries (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


NCDs now killing more South Africans than TB in major public health shift


NCDs cause 7 out of 10 deaths worldwide — 186 country analysis


Developing nations have higher mortality risk from NCDs


WHO report on NCDs fails to recommend sugar tax






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