Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley examines why children have been excluded from WHO targets on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” writing, “Children die from cancer, heart disease and other [NCDs] but they are in danger of being forgotten as global targets for action are drawn up, say health groups.” Boseley discusses an analysis by advocate Kate Armstrong, which suggests “the targets now being considered by the [WHO] and others to reduce the impact of heart disease, cancer and other [NCDs] are in danger of being focused solely on adults,” as “the targets under consideration aim to bring down the deaths of adults over the age of 30.”
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
A global report (.pdf) published by the WHO, titled “Mortality Attributable to Tobacco,” “provides information by country on the proportion of adult (age 30 years and above) deaths attributable to tobacco by major communicable and non-communicable causes by age and sex,” the agency’s website states (March 2012). According to the U.N. News Centre, the report “shows that five percent of all deaths from communicable diseases worldwide and 14 percent of deaths resulting from non-communicable illnesses among adults aged 30 and above were attributable to tobacco use” (3/15).
Using data from cancer registries worldwide, researchers from the International Agency for Cancer Research (IACR) found that 169.3 million years of healthy life were lost to cancer in 2008, according to a study published on Tuesday in the Lancet, HealthDay News reports. Using “a measure called disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) to assess not only the impact of fatal cancer, but also the effects of disabilities among cancer survivors,” the researchers also found men in Eastern Europe and women in sub-Saharan Africa had the largest cancer burden worldwide; increased access to treatment has not improved survival outcomes for several common cancers; and lower-income countries have higher average levels of premature death due to cancer, while higher-income countries have higher average levels of cancer-related disability and impairment, according to the news service. Study co-author Freddie Bray, deputy head of the IARC Cancer Information Section, said in a Lancet press release, “Our findings illustrate quite starkly how cancer is already a barrier to sustainable development in many of the poorest countries across the world and this will only be exacerbated in the coming years if cancer control is neglected,” the news service notes (10/15).
“Industrial pollution is putting the health of 125 million people at risk worldwide and is as dangerous in the developing world as malaria or tuberculosis, according to a new report,” titled “2012 World’s Worst Pollution Problems,” Reuters/ABC Science reports (Allen, 10/24). According to the Guardian, the report, published on Tuesday by the Blacksmith Institute in partnership with Green Cross Switzerland, “documents, for the first time, the public health impact of industrial pollutants — lead, mercury, chromium, radionuclides and pesticides — in the air, water and soil of developing countries.”
“Secretary Clinton’s inspiring piece on how the interests of the U.S. and India are aligned on issue after issue compelled me to articulate one more way in which the world’s two biggest democracies could pave the way for international co-operation. This is a remarkable opportunity for the U.S. and India to join together in addressing NCDs, chronic non-communicable diseases,” Nalini Saligram, founder and CEO of Aroyga World, writes in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ “Smart Global Health” blog. She describes several initiatives underway to curb NCDs, including the mDiabetes text-messaging program being implemented by Aroyga World in India. Both the U.S. and India “have the bold leadership and technology advances needed [to tackle NCDs], and both countries consider the pursuit of healthy living a worthy aspiration and believe fully in the power of innovation,” she states (6/15).
The Economist’s “Graphic Detail” blog features an infographic depicting the probability of dying from a non-communicable disease, by country. “You are more likely to be killed by a non-communicable disease (NCD), like cancer or heart disease, than anything else,” the blog notes, adding, “In 2008 they accounted for 63 percent of the 56 million deaths worldwide” (6/1).
“The ruling this week by Australia’s high court to uphold its government’s right to introduce ‘plain packaging’ for tobacco products is a landmark event for global health,” John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, writes in this Health-e opinion piece. “As the chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, I am grateful for this ruling on plain packaging, as it will undoubtedly reduce the cancer burden in Australia,” he continues. “However, the significance of this Australia ruling extends to countries around the world and the global health community,” he adds, noting, “The reason tobacco companies have fought vociferously against plain packaging is because they know this will have a major impact in not only decreasing the number of new consumers who may become addicted, but also because other countries may follow Australia’s lead.”
“In one of the most significant victories for public health policy, the Australian High Court upheld the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act, which effectively removes the last form of advertising available to the tobacco industry in the country — logos on cigarette packs,” Cynthia Lewis, a senior program officer for the tobacco initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “After a multi-million dollar legal battle, the Government of Australia effectively defended its right to legislate to protect the health of its citizens,” she continues, adding, “While the battle is not yet over — Australia still faces two additional cases with Philip Morris Asia and the World Trade Organization — [Wednesday's] victory establishes an important precedent for plain packaging, and encourages those who seek to implement it elsewhere” (8/15).
“Australia’s highest court Wednesday rejected a challenge from big tobacco companies to tough new plain-packaging laws due to come into effect later this year, in a legal battle closely watched around the world,” the Wall Street Journal reports, adding, “The ruling is a major blow for global tobacco giants that had been seeking to stop Australia implementing the new laws, fearing the move would set a precedent for other countries to follow” (Curran, 8/14). “Tobacco companies British American Tobacco, Britain’s Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco challenged the laws in Australia’s high court, claiming the rules were unconstitutional because they effectively extinguished the companies’ intellectual property rights,” according to the Guardian (8/15). “The law, approved by Parliament last year, requires cigarettes to be sold in drab dark packaging starting in December, without logos but featuring graphic images of smoking-related diseases,” the Washington Post writes, adding, “Brand names can still be used, but only in a standard font, size and position” (Hume, 8/15).
In the second part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the global burden of non-communicable diseases, which “receiv[e] the smallest amount of donor assistance of all health conditions, having lost ground since 1990 relative to infectious diseases,” he writes. “In a research paper released today on chronic disease, Prabhat Jha and a team of researchers argue that chronic diseases already pose a substantial economic burden, and this burden will evolve into a staggering one over the next two decades,” according to Lomborg.