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 Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs