The key message of the United Nations Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) was clear:
“Governments should educate people and encourage healthier options.”
These were the words of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as he spoke at the gathering of the world’s leaders in New York last week. Calling it a landmark meeting, Ban began his speech saying ”Three out of every five people on earth die from the diseases that we gather here to address.”
Pointing out that NCDs are a threat to development, Ban encouraged “people to cycle to work instead of driving, they get exercise and the planet is spared more greenhouse gas emissions,“ and added that feeding children with nutritious diet at school increases their attendance and teaches them healthy “eating habits can last a lifetime.”
On an equally important note, Ban reminded the world leaders that working on the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will help governments address the threat of NCDs. The FCTC is the world’s first public health treaty that .aims to address the devastating health, social, economic, and environmental consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.
The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) affirmed Ban’s remark that tobacco control is crucial to NCDs. SEATCA Director Bungon Ritthiphakdee stated that measures on tobacco price and tax are still the most effective means to reduce tobacco consumption. Thailand, which increased tobacco taxes nine times since 1994 and with 85 percent current excise rate has reduced “smoking prevalence among youths and the poor… by more than 50 percent,” Bungon stressed.
The World Health Organization has long established that NCDs are a threat to development and one key strategy to address this is increasing tobacco tax to discourage tobacco consumption and at the same time use the additional revenue to fund health programs designed to build healthier environments and empower individuals to make healthy choices.
Speaking for the cancer survivors, Emer Rojas, Global Cancer Ambassador and President of New Vois Association, proposes “immediate enactment of pending sin tax bills and revival of the graphic health warning bill in Congress to show government support to the recent UN High Level Summit. These bills will surely save thousands of people from premature death. To note major NCDs namely cancer, diabetes, heart and lung diseases accounts for 63 percent of all deaths worldwide and 80 percent of these deaths happen in developing countries which includes the Philippines. A third of these lifestyle diseases can be prevented through simple measures such as physical activity, healthy foods, reduction of alcohol intake and, most importantly, quitting smoking”.
As the United Nations Secretary General kindly pleaded government leaders, “We should encourage individuals to make the smart choices that will protect their health,” and concluded, “I count on your leadership and commitment and I thank you very much.” Carolina Rodriguez Bello, Media and Communication Officer, Health Justice Philippines.