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Health policies must be protected from commercial interests

by , 12 June 2013

The World Health Organisation's Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan has warned that challenges facing public health have changed enormously since the start of the century especially since global health faces opposition from big businesses. She revealed global health is being shaped by demographic ageing, rapid urbanisation and the globalisation of unhealthy lifestyles. Chan made the remarks in her address at the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion. Here's more of what she had to say about global health and how it affects you.

In her opening statement, Chan said she hoped the meeting will be instrumental in raising awareness of the role health promotion can play in addressing some of the most pressing problems in public health.

She said it is of great concern that today, instead of diseases vanishing as living conditions improve, socioeconomic progress is actually creating the conditions that favour the rise of non-communicable diseases.

“Economic growth, modernisation and urbanisation have opened wide the entry point for the spread of unhealthy lifestyles,” she warned.
She added that another disturbing trend is that “we increasingly live in a world of rich countries full of poor and sick people. The rise of non-communicable diseases threatens to widen these gaps even further.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity is the fifth leading cause for deaths globally. In fact, at least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

Chan warned that the fight against unhealthy lifestyles faces opposition from businesses.

Your health is under threat as a result of commercial interests

“Efforts to prevent non-communicable diseases go against the business interests of powerful economic operators. In my view, this is one of the biggest challenges facing health promotion,” she warned.

And it’s not just Tobacco companies anymore. “Public health must also contend with big food, big soda and big alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation and protect themselves by using the same tactics,” she said in her statement.

The Director-General also cautioned that this market power readily translates into political power. And as a result, fewer governments prioritise health over big business.

“Not one single country has managed to turn around its obesity epidemic in all age groups. This is not a failure of individual will-power. This is a failure of political will to take on big business,” she warned.

She concluded that the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests.

As the conference concludes on Friday it will be in your interest to observe if any bold steps will be taken to protect your health because the conference is aimed at looking at how public policy can meet the health challenges of a growing and changing global population.

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