Obesity and agressive tobacco advertising threat to health in
26 February 2010
Tobacco use encouraged by aggressive marketing and growing
obesity linked to poor diets and physical inactivity endanger the health
of millions of people in the developing world, Princess Haya Al Hussein
of Jordan said at a conference hosted by the World Health Organization
(WHO) this week.
In a keynote address at the Noncommunicable Disease Network
(NCDnet) Global Forum in Geneva, Princess Haya cited the direct link
between unhealthy lifestyles and a host of life-threatening
HRH Princess Haya with Dr Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General for
Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, WHO
The WHO estimates that nearly 2.6 million people die annually in
developing countries from noncommunicable illnesses related to
inactivity. More than 3.6 million people in the developing world
died from tobacco-related illnesses in 2004.
"The global tobacco industry has started to exploit the
developing world by using the same marketing and lobbying tactics
perfected — and often outlawed — in the developed world. The
industry now targets women and teens to use tobacco while pressuring
governments to block marketing restrictions and tax increases — the
same tactics it has used for decades to boost sales in developed
countries," she said.
The Global Forum, which was opened by Dr Margaret Chan,
Director-General of the WHO, marked the first time key stakeholder
groups have convened to address the large-scale and increasing
global health and development burden posed by noncommunicable
diseases (NCDs). NCDs, mainly heart disease and stroke, diabetes,
cancer and chronic respiratory diseases claim more than 35 million
lives each year, accounting for 60 percent of all deaths worldwide.
More than 80% of NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income
countries, where population sizes are high, access to high quality
healthcare is often limited and health promotion programs are rare.
Princess Haya, a former Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food
Programme, also highlighted the link between poor nutrition and
"Malnutrition and obesity may seem mutually exclusive, but, in
fact, the two are linked by their common origins in poor diet," she
said. "The cheap, low-grade and processed foods that make adults
fat, starve children of absolutely essential nutrients. Children who
are malnourished and underweight during the first two years of life
are damaged for the rest of their lives."
She called for a concerted effort by non-governmental
organizations, governments, schools and private sector organizations
to address the underlying causes of noncommunicable diseases.
"The good news is that obesity in children is largely preventable
by improving diets and increasing their participation in physical
activity," she said. "We must cut the amount of fatty, sugary foods
in their diets. And we must provide children with opportunities to
engage in aerobic exercises like biking, running and swimming for at
least 60 minutes each day," she said.
Princess Haya's role at the forum was an outgrowth of her
longstanding interest in health-related issues and her work as UN
Messenger of Peace, which focuses on efforts to combat poverty and
NCDnet is a voluntary collaborative network comprised of WHO
Secretariat staff, an International Advisory Council, WHO regional
NCD networks and the NCDnet Global and Regional Forum meetings. Over
100 people representing different geographic regions met to address
the NCD gap in the development agenda and the mobilization of
support. Attendees included HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium,
Duchess of Brabant; Dr. Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General, WHO;
Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World
Economic Forum; Julian Schweitzer, Acting Vice-President, World
Bank; and HE Laurette Onkelinx, Vice Prime-Minister and Minister of
Social Affairs and Public Health, Belgium, to name a few.