Commercial Interests Confound Fight Against NCDs, Some Experts Say

The Washington Post examines the influence of commercial interests on the “political declaration” that emerged from this week’s U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in New York. NCDs “are the globe’s biggest health problem, responsible for 63 percent of all deaths each year, with incidence growing steeply in the low-income, rapidly urbanizing nations of the world,” but they “are deeply entangled with important global industries, not only tobacco but also food, pharmaceuticals, advertising, transportation and construction,” the newspaper writes, adding, “The bigger issue in preparing the document, however, was how much to invoke the … World Trade Organization’s agreement on intellectual property, known informally as TRIPS” (Brown, 9/20).

Many government and civil society leaders “expressed concern that no clear boundaries exist to distinguish appropriate involvement of the private sector from the inappropriate and potentially unethical, or to ensure that profits do not trump public health,” Inter Press Service reports in a similar article. “The political declaration itself explicitly noted a ‘fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health,’ but it did not do the same for the food and beverage or pharmaceutical industries,” IPS writes, adding, “Rather, it called on the private sector to ‘consider producing and promoting more food products consistent with a healthy diet’ and to ‘contribute to efforts to improve access and affordability for medicines'” (Whitman, 9/21).