June 12, 2013
Low- And Middle-Income Countries Need To Prioritize Noncommunicable Disease Prevention
Nine years after the World Health Organization adopted a global strategy on diet, physical activity, and health to address risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes (referred to internationally as noncommunicable diseases), only a few low-and middle-income countries have implemented robust national policies to help prevent such diseases, according to a study by international researchers published in this week's PLOS Medicine.
These findings are important as they suggest that the majority of the world's low- and middle-income countries are not prioritizing the prevention of noncommunicable diseases through evidence-based actions, such as reducing fat and salt intake.
The authors found that less than half of the 116 countries (47% or 54/116) had any strategies relating to noncommunicable diseases and that only a small proportion of these strategies proposed actions to promote healthier diets and physical activity. Furthermore, only 14 countries (12%) proposed a policy that addressed all main risk factors (reducing salt and fat intake, and promoting fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity) and 29 (25%) addressed only one risk factor.
The authors say: "The present review shows that the policy response to address current [noncommunicable diseases] challenges through diet and physical inactivity in [low- and middle-income countries] is inadequate since endorsement of the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health."
They continue: "[Low- and middle-income countries] urgently need to scale up interventions and develop integrated policies that address various risk factors for [noncommunicable diseases] prevention through multi-stakeholder collaboration and cross-sector involvement."
In an accompanying Perspective article, David Stuckler from the University of Oxford and Sanjay Basu from Stanford University (uninvolved in the study) say: "Two key features of the study underscore some reasons for the malignant neglect of [non-communicable diseases]. First, there is virtually no serious response to potential conflicts of interest with industries that manufacture and market the products directly attributable for rising [non-communicable diseases]." "Second, there is a vast divide between resources available to the public and those used to construct policy."
Stuckler and Basu continue: "People around the world deserve to know which policies they are (or are not) being exposed to and what impact these policies have on them."
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