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May 24, 2018

Combat Non-Communicable Diseases

Few causes garner as much support as the need to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Ranging from obesity to diabetes to chronic respiratory disease, NCDs affect every nation and touch every person.

Ending or curtailing many of these diseases will not only save governments money by reducing the cost of care, but will have an additive effect as previously sick individuals become more productive and are able to contribute to society.

However, in this fight, the WHO has adopted problematic and potentially damaging approaches. The WHO has continued to push for troubling and unproven policy options, known as “best buys,” lobbying national governments to adopt them despite their unverified track records and their clearly demonstrable harm to local economics and consumers. These policies include recommended taxation policies and marketing restrictions on specific industries – blanket mandates that would hurt member state economies and cause more damage than the benefits they could provide.

In many instances, WHO recommendations ignore input from relevant and expert stakeholders, instead relying on mandates that would be imposed on every country. It stands to reason that as every member state faces differing conditions, such mandates would fail in many cases. Without engaging with the private sector and with all stakeholders, these mandates could impede progress, rather than help to combat NCDs.

The United States has been a key voice pushing back on this approach, repeatedly calling on the WHO to examine scientifically valid and comprehensive strategies to combat non-communicable diseases as opposed to narrow, damaging approaches. This included a significant step at last year’s World Health Assembly to reject a key portion of the recommendations in the WHO report.

These actions are critical. This year’s U.S. delegation must continue to hold that line, supporting proven, collaborative approaches to tackle NCDs while pushing back on initiatives that have not been proven to be effective and would have a negative impact on manufacturing competitiveness.