Leaders from the private sector, NGOs, international organizations, and civil society combine talents and perspectives to help "make the healthy choice the easy choice" for consumers
Washington, D.C., 3 December 2009 - Representatives of major private sector companies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international agencies, and civil society organizations have gathered at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) on December 3 to launch a public-private partnership whose goal is to reduce the burden and cost of chronic diseases in the Americas by working together to promote healthier lifestyles and preventive health care.
The new Partners' Forum for Action on Chronic Diseases—a partnership initiated by PAHO/WHO, in consultation with the International Business Leaders Forum, the World Economic Forum, and the Pan American Health and Education Foundation—will bring together a range of talents and perspectives to help raise awareness about chronic diseases, advocate for changes in public policy, and expand existing and develop new initiatives aimed at reducing risk factors and improving treatment of chronic diseases.
Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of PAHO/WHO, said the enhanced partnership approach represents a paradigm shift to actively engage other sectors, including a diverse range of other partners. "Our vision is to prevent over 3 million deaths, reduce suffering and the upward cost spiral, and improve productivity, through joint action over the next 10 years."
Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of premature death and illness throughout the Americas. They account for some 4.5 million deaths each year in Latin America and the Caribbean, or 77 percent of all deaths in the region.
Yet chronic diseases are in large part preventable. Experts say that as much as 80 percent of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes and 40 percent of cancers could be prevented by modifying a handful of risk factors, primarily unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and the harmful use of alcohol.
The Partners' Forum will seek to mobilize support from people and institutions in different sectors-health, industry, civil society, and the international community-to advocate for and catalyze the necessary changes in public policy, marketing, medical care, and individual behavior that are needed to reduce risk factors and improve preventive treatment for chronic diseases. The Partners Forum will also serve as the regional forum of the Global Non Communicable Disease Network (NCDnet) of WHO.
James Hospedales, coordinator of chronic disease prevention for PAHO, said the time is right for an initiative such as the Partners' Forum.
"We see growing consumer concerns about the quality and costs of health care and lack of access to care for people without health insurance. At the same time, we see growing demands to put people first in policies on transportation, climate change and the environment, trade, and agriculture. All this contributes to a political and social environment that is highly conducive to scaling up efforts to fight chronic diseases."
A central element of the Forum's efforts to promote healthy lifestyles will be to "make the health choice the easy choice," said Hospedales.
"You do this by promoting healthier agro-industrial practices, healthier public policies, and healthier behaviors like biking and walking, using public transportation, and eating locally grown food. By bringing together partners from a wide cross-section of society, we can do this more effectively by working together to raise awareness, support current initiatives, and create new, innovative ones that take a common approach and have a real impact on the chronic disease epidemic."
Members of the new Partners' Forum will include representatives of PAHO and the World Health Organization (WHO), Grupo Bimbo, Groceries Manifacturers Association, the InterAmerican Heart Foundation, Consumers International, Merck & Co. Inc., Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, 5-a-Day, Ciclovías, Kraft Foods, the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and the CARMEN Country Network among others.