News / Africa

UN to Plot Strategy against Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease

Joe DeCapua

Later this month (9/19-20), the U.N. hosts the High-level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The goal is to find strategies to reduce the number of avoidable deaths from chronic disease. However, some observers say big industry is trying to influence policy and derail the meeting.

Not very often

Holding a high-level meeting on health-related issues is a rare occurrence for the United Nations.

“It’s only the second time the U.N. has met to discuss illness or ill health. The first time they met was in 2001 and that was to discuss HIV and AIDS. Global health advocates really see this as an opportunity to discuss chronic diseases, so diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and cancer, in a big global forum,” said Dr. Deborah Cohen, investigations editor for the British Medical Journal.

She said the U.N. has the “potential to signal a change” in dealing with these illnesses.

“There’s hundreds of millions of people that suffer from these diseases around the world. Typically, they’ve been thought of as Western illness, so illnesses that affect rich countries. But increasingly what we’re seeing is more and more poorer countries are going to have a large number of people suffering from these illnesses to such an extent that in 20 years time, four out of five people will come from the developing world that have these illnesses,” she said.

Cohen said noncommunicable diseases are not only a health issue, but an economic one as well.

“The people that suffer these illnesses are often people that are at work and then they become ill and they can’t go to work. And so the World Economic Forum has actually waded in and said, look, this is a threat to global economic security. We need to tackle these illnesses,” she said.

Watered down

The British Medical Journal editor has seen the final summit document. And she says many proposed tough regulations have been eliminated or watered down.

“One of the problems with this is is that if you are going to tackle the illnesses, if you are going to prevent the illnesses, it does mean particular policy measures that will have an impact on the alcohol industry, the tobacco industry, the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry. And we all know that these are an incredibly powerful body of industries,” she said.

She said those industries have been busying lobbying prior to the summit. Many of the proposals to curb alcohol sales have been eliminated, such as higher taxes and marketing restrictions. And while the document shows tough measures against tobacco and trans fats, some food industry restrictions were eased.

“Initially in the draft declaration, there was a measure to reduce the amount of salt to five grams per day per person. But that’s come out. Instead, the language is a lot softer. So, you talk about measures to reduce saturated fat, sugar and salt, but there are no specific targets. And I know that has concerned some global health advocates that really think governments need to sign up for specifics,” she said.

Even though the final document for the summit has been watered down, Dr. Cohen said it still gets people talking about the issues. There will be a follow-up meeting in 2014.

“So those countries that haven’t done anything, haven’t started to implement anything, will start to look a little bit bad.”

Cohen calls the U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases a starting point, but an important starting point.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More