September 16, 2011
World leaders at a meeting of the United Nations on Monday will agree a deal to try to curb the spread of preventable “lifestyle” diseases, amid concern that progress is already being hampered by powerful lobbyists from the food, alcohol and tobacco industries.
Cancers, heart disease, diabetes and lung conditions already cost rich countries dear in terms of the health bills and productive life span of their citizens. But the scourge of what the World Health Organisation calls the “non-communicable diseases” (NCDs) is rapidly spreading across all parts of the globe, fuelled by obesity as a result of bad diet and sedentary lifestyles, together with alcohol and smoking. These diseases were responsible for around 36m of the 57m global deaths in 2008, including about 9m before the age of 60 – and many are preventable.
While countries such as the UK have imposed smoking bans, taxed cigarettes and alcohol heavily and restricted junk food advertising to children, most developing countries have yet to address these issues – and the food and tobacco industries are accused of adopting marketing and production strategies there that would be unacceptable in Europe or in north America.