National Center Risk Analysis Division Director Jeff Stierspoke at the United Nations today, urging delegates there to recall that voluntary, private sector initiatives can and should be an effective part of the mix in deterring non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
NCDs, according to the World Health Organization, kill about 36 million people a year worldwide. They include such things as heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes.
At the U.N., Jeff said,
I am heartened to hear, both from this roundtable, as well as from the participants in the opening session today, that there is consensus surrounding a multi-stakeholder approach to confronting non-communicable diseases. While industry has been demonized for years, and in some cases rightfully so, I am encouraged that this process recognizes the need for a seat at the table for industry.
I urge the high level meeting taking place in July to include in its outcome document specific and concrete examples of how this engagement with the private sector can be implemented.
The two areas being discussed here today related to the leading causes of NCDs are food products and tobacco products. In both cases, innovations by these industries can be harnessed to help reduce the burden of NCDs worldwide.
In the food industry, innovations and choices already offered by industry to reduce salt content or to substitute non-caloric sweeteners should be recognized and further encouraged. These innovations have come from the private sector and should be leveraged in this U.N. process.
With regard to tobacco-related disease, widely recognized as the greatest contributor to the global NCD burden, the private sector has also innovated to help smokers quit. The growing popularity of e-cigarettes among cigarette smokers is very promising.
These products provide a choice to consumers, allowing them to dramatically reduce their risk of disease.
The concept of reducing harm through innovation should be included in the UN High Level Meeting Outcome document. Thank you.
Jeff reports that H.E. Mr. Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica and the chairman of the hearing (officially "the United Nations Interactive Hearing with Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society Organizations, the Private Sector and Academia on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases") said to Jeff in response, "I hear you loud and clear." Rattray also said the involvement of the private sector "is fundamental to fighting NCDs."
More about Jeff's speaking appearance at the United Nations and what he is trying to achieve there can be found here.