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UN adopts declaration on non-communicable diseases
The United Nations High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases in New York recently adopted a Political Declaration calling for greater measures at global, regional and national levels to prevent and control NCDs.
UN High Level Meeting
34 Heads of State were present for the high level meeting in which 133 Member States made statements. The numbers of statements exceeded expectations and the hours of the meeting had to be extended. There was also great interest in the meeting from civil society and the corporate sector. Over 200 participants representing these sectors were admitted to the meetings of the General Assembly, the round table discussions and the more than 40 side events organized during the two days.
Conflict of interest
Running up to the High Level Meeting more than 140 non-governmental organizations from around the world had signed a statement on of concern on lack of clarity on role of industry in the process. This coalition comprises civil society organisations united by the common objective of safeguarding public health policy-making against commercial conflicts of interest and they called for the development of a Code of Conduct and Ethical Framework for interactions with the private sector.
Despite the concerns of the civil society, the UN member states agreed to "acknowledge the contribution and important role played by all relevant stakeholders, including individuals, families and communities, intergovernmental organizations and religious institutions, civil society, academia, media, voluntary associations, and where and as appropriate, the private sector and industry..." The Political Declaration from the high level meeting went on to "engage the private sector and key stakeholders, where appropriate, including the private sector and civil society in collaborative partnership..."
Responding to the challenge
The steps called for in the Political Declaration range from price and tax measures to reduce tobacco consumption to curbing the extensive marketing to children, particularly on television, of foods and beverages that are high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sugars, or salt. The declaration promotes the implementation of the WHO Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, and promotes overall healthy diets and increase physical activity. It also points to the WHO Set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, the need to protect and support breast feeding and to develop health-promoting environments that empower people to make healthy choices.
Unlike 10 years ago, when a similar meeting laid the foundation for an unprecedented effort to reduce the HIV/AIDS pandemic, this meeting did not raise fresh funds for NCD prevention. It points to the need to mobilize predictable and sustained financial resources and it encourages the continued inclusion of non-communicable diseases in development cooperation agendas and initiatives.