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On World No Tobacco Day, WHO Calls On National Leaders To Stand Together Against Tobacco Industry 'Attacks'

“On World No Tobacco Day (31 May), WHO is calling on national leaders to be extra vigilant against the increasingly aggressive attacks by the industry which undermine policies that protect people from the harms of tobacco,” a WHO press release reports, noting that nearly six million people die of tobacco-related illnesses each year and tobacco is a leading preventable cause of illness and death worldwide. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, “In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco. … We must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens,” according to the press release. “More countries are moving to fully meet their obligations under the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC),” the press release adds (5/30). PANA/Afrique en ligne reports that WHO has released a technical resource paper based on 2008 guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the FCTC “to help guide countries on ways to combat tobacco industry interference” (5/30).

Target Of 25% Reduction In Premature Mortality From NCDs By 2025 A 'Rallying Call' For Global Health Community

Member states at the 65th session of the World Health Assembly, which concluded last week, “agreed to adopt a global target of a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality from non-communicable diseases [NCDs] such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases by 2025,” Devi Sridhar, a lecturer in Global Health Politics at Oxford University; Lawrence Gostin, professor of law at Georgetown University, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and director of the WHO’s Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights; and Derek Yach, senior vice president of global health and agricultural policy at PepsiCo and former executive of the WHO, write in the journal Global Health Governance. The authors discuss the basis on which the target was set and examine what will need to be done, and by whom, in order to achieve the goal.

WHO Releases World Health Statistics 2012 With First-Time Data On Blood Pressure, Diabetes

The WHO on Wednesday released its World Health Statistics 2012 report, which “for the first time includes a look at blood pressure and glucose levels, two of the risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” according to the Associated Press/Washington Post (5/16). The “data showed one in three adults worldwide has raised blood pressure — the cause of around half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease — and the condition affects almost half the adult population in some countries in Africa,” Reuters writes (Kelland, 5/16). “One in 10 people are estimated to have diabetes, rising to up to one third in Pacific Island countries,” Agence France-Presse notes (5/16). According to Reuters, “Obesity is another major issue, the WHO said, with data showing rates of obesity doubling in every region of the world between 1980 and 2008” (5/16). “This report is further evidence of the dramatic increase in the conditions that trigger heart disease and other chronic illnesses, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, the news agency reports (5/16).

WHO Faces Challenges In Setting Priorities

In this BMJ Groups Blog post, Amanda Glassman, director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development, writes about the challenges the WHO faces in “[s]etting priorities and fully funding those priorities.” She defines the criteria by which the WHO could outline its priorities, including by identifying “global” and “shared” concerns and adequately funding and staffing priority areas. Glassman concludes, “There is tentative movement towards limiting the number of new resolutions based on ‘an assessment of their strategic value, financial and administrative implications, and reporting requirements and timelines.’ That sounds very good, and would inspire more confidence if the assessment were rigorous and transparent to member states and the public. Still, the reform seems to have punted on the WHO’s priority-setting problem” (5/17).

WHO DG Chan Addresses World Health Assembly; HHS Secretary Sebelius Speaks At Plenary Session

“Opening the 65th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) [on Monday in Geneva], World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan said she sees a bright future for health development, despite financial crises that many countries are facing, which has shrunk support for many initiatives,” CIDRAP News reports. According to the news service, “Chan said the WHO can leverage its leadership role to make the most of small and wise investments” and that “[u]niversal health coverage is the best way to maintain health gains that have been made over the past decade” (Schnirring, 5/21). Focusing on innovations that bring social benefit rather than profit, as well as research and development into new treatments, also are important, Chan noted, Devex reports (Ravelo, 5/22).

Sugar Poses Significant Health Risks, Should Be Regulated Like Alcohol, U.S. Researchers Say

“Sugar poses enough health risks that it should be considered a controlled substance just like alcohol and tobacco, contend a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),” in an opinion piece called “The Toxic Truth About Sugar,” published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, TIME’s “Healthland” blog reports (Rochman, 2/2). “While acknowledging that food, unlike alcohol and tobacco, is required for survival, [authors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis] say taxes, zoning ordinances and even age limits for purchasing certain sugar-laden products are all appropriate remedies for what they see as a not-so-sweet problem,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health” blog writes (Hobson, 2/2).

Closing The ‘Cancer Divide’ Between Developing And Developed Countries

Noting “there is a huge ‘cancer divide’ between rich and poor,” with more than half of new cancer cases and almost two-thirds of all cancer deaths occurring in developing countries, this year’s World Cancer Day theme, “Together It Is Possible,” “calls on all individuals, organizations and governments to do their part to reduce premature deaths from cancers by 25 percent by 2025,” Felicia Knaul, secretariat for the Global Task Force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control in Developing Countries, and Jonathan Quick, president of Management Sciences for Health, write in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “But there have been four myths that have held back cancer care and control in developing countries,” they write.

South African Researchers Call For New Framework To Help Prioritize Global Mental Health

“For mental health to gain significant attention, and funding from policymakers globally, it is not enough to convince people that it has a high disease burden but also that there are deliverable and cost-effective interventions — according to South African researchers writing in this week’s PLoS Medicine,” a PLoS press release reports, adding, “Mark Tomlinson and Crick Lund from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health based at the University of Cape Town argue that global mental health must demonstrate its social and economic impact.” According to the press release, the authors “discuss a framework to help understand why some global health initiatives are more successful in generating funding and political priority than others” (2/28).

More People Than Ever Overweight, Obese In Developed Countries, OECD Report Says

“More people in developed countries are overweight or obese than ever before, dooming them to years of ill health, pushing up health care costs and piling more pressure on health systems, a report [.pdf] by the OECD found on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. Though the report found that obesity rates are diverse — “from a low of four percent in Japan and Korea to 30 percent or more in the United States and Mexico” – “in more than half of the 34 OECD countries, at least one in two people is now overweight or obese, and rates are projected to rise further,” according to the news agency.

Blog Examines Gap Between Mental Health Disease Burden, Attention Given To Problem

This post in KPLU’s “Humanosphere” blog examines the “gap between the disease burden of mental illness and the amount of funding and attention devoted to solving the problem,” referencing a post published Friday in the Global Health Interest Forum’s “Blog of Scientists for Global Health,” written by Paul Southworth, a visiting scholar on malaria and vaccine science at the NIH. The blog provides a breakdown of the global burden of disease in terms of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and notes, “As you can see from the pie chart, mental illness (aka ‘neuropsychiatric disorders’) is the biggest slice in the pie. Yet it is rarely even mentioned at global health meetings or confabs, says Southworth” (Paulson, 2/21).

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