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Fighting NCDs Requires Commitment from All Sectors: With Clear Rules of Engagement including Conflicts of Interest, It Can Be Done

Washington, D.C., 20 October 2012 (PAHO/WHO) – The fight against heart disease, stroke, cancer, respiratory illness, and diabetes, as well as against their causes, which result in more than 36 million deaths per year worldwide, requires commitment and joint action from all sectors of society.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) strongly disagrees with the allegations in the recent Reuters article that the food and beverage industry advises our policymaking. We regret that our candid acceptance of the interview ended up with such misinformation.

In line with PAHO Member States mandates and the Declaration of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases held in New York in September 2011, PAHO adheres to a comprehensive approach to fight NCDs, which includes governments, civil society, academia, international organizations, and private sector. Effective interventions go beyond the health sector remit and require infrastructure, education, promotion of good practices, social participation, and commitment from all sectors involved, guided by a common objective laid out by PAHO Member States.

In 2011, PAHO invited governments, academia, civil society and private sector to participate in the Pan American Forum for Action on Non-Communicable Diseases (the Forum). The goal is to work together to raise awareness, promote new and innovative initiatives, and share best practices on the prevention and control of NCDs, as well as in health promotion and behavioral changes.

To manage potential conflicts of interest and ensure transparency and independence in the Organization’s decision-making process, PAHO adheres to strict guidelines on relations with the private sector, approved by its Member States. Furthermore, in order to mitigate risks and conflicts of interest within the Forum, PAHO established rules of engagement for participation and maintains absolute control over the activities and direction of the Forum. Besides governments, more than 40 civil society organizations are members and endorse this forum. Private companies are not involved in health policies formulation or in decision-making processes of the Organization.

A Trust Fund administered by PAHO was established in accordance with the Organization’s rules and regulations. The Trust Fund is administered transparently and its annual reports are public. Trust Fund contributions will be used for capacity building, establishing partnerships based on the global and regional strategies, reduction of salt intake, prevention of breast, cervical and uterine cancer, tobacco control, diabetes prevention, promotion of physical activity, and expanding access to cardiovascular treatment. Currently, only one percent of PAHO’s 30 million dollar investment in the fight against NCDs comes from the private sector.

Health objectives, such as the reduction of salt intake to five grams per day, are the responsibility of individual governments, with the technical assistance of PAHO. However, strategies such as salt reduction in bread cannot succeed with legislation alone. This requires awareness and commitment from all sectors of society, including the business sector in reformulating its products. This is the type of action that the Forum, with the participation of all members representing different sectors, promotes.

PAHO was established in 1902 and became the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. PAHO has its own Constitution and Governing Bodies, but its policies and procedures are aligned with, and do not contradict, those of WHO.

NCDs are the main cause of premature death and of disability in most of the countries of the Americas. These diseases have common risk factors that include smoking, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy diet. NCDs can be prevented and controlled through changes in behavior, public policies, and health intervention, demanding an intersectoral and integrated approach.

Every day, PAHO reaffirms its commitment to public health in the Americas, solidarity, and Pan-Americanism – values that transcend 110 years of its history.

 
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