Our Perspective

      • Trading health for wealth? Obesity in the South Pacific | Douglas Webb

        19 Apr 2013

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        Reduced physical activity and a shift from labour-intensive traditional production systems to the market and services economy have contributed to an obesity epidemic in the Pacific Islands. (Photo: Ferdinand Strobel/UNDP)

        The islands of the South Pacific have some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world, with obesity rates as high as 75 percent and diabetes rates as high as 47 percent. The islanders are raising the most obese generation of humans in history. A deeper look at the international trade regimes of these countries indicates that many of them have, in effect, traded health for wealth. The epidemic levels of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers in the Pacific region are closely linked to the progressive substitution of traditional foods with cheap, energy-dense and nutrient-poor imported foods — i.e., processed “junk.” These countries are being compelled by various trade agreements to further reduce import barriers, making over-processed foods like tinned meats even cheaper and more accessible — and limiting the policy space to respond to the problem on public health grounds. The correlation between imported food and unhealthy diets is exemplified by Kiribati, which is estimated to import a whopping 72 percent of its food and has the highest rates of unhealthy food consumption. Sugar alone accounts for more than 30 percent of the total daily caloric intake and 65 percent of the total Read More

      • Post-2015 agenda: Reinventing global decision-making | Olav Kjørven

        17 Apr 2013

        For the first time in history, the United Nations (UN) are engaging people all around the world in shaping a global agenda: the next development goals. We are breaking new ground using digital media, mobile phone technology and door-to-door interviewers to include as many individuals as possible in the debate on the future anti-poverty targets that will build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To date, close to half a million people have taken part in the ongoing “Global Conversation.” The discussion takes place on several platforms: close to 100 UN Member States are organizing local workshops with the participation of young people, vulnerable women, people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups;  eleven global thematic consultations are taking place online through the World We Want 2015 website, where people can contribute their ideas on issues such as inequalities, food security, and access to water; and the MY World survey, available in 10 languages, invites people to vote for six out of 16 priorities for the future development agenda. I presented the voices from the conversation to the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and to the representatives of Member States who will ultimately negotiate the next set of goals. One Read More

      • Is it possible to provide health care without causing harm to the environment? | Suely Carvalho

        07 Apr 2013

        Is it possible to provide health care without causing harm to the environment? World Health Day 2013 reminds us that 12 percent of all deaths globally are due to high blood pressure. For centuries, doctors did not have a good way to monitor blood pressure until the introduction of mercury blood pressure meters in the early 1900s.  This advance in health care, however, has had a negative side. Every year, tonnes of toxic mercury from broken blood pressure meters are released from hospitals into the environment, causing serious harm to human health. A similar dilemma arises with infectious waste, a necessary byproduct of medical care. Single-use plastic syringes and disposable products prevent the transfer of infections among patients but increase the quantity of waste produced. Dumping untreated waste contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, while burning the waste in incinerators emits hazardous pollutants including highly toxic and persistent dioxins. Is it possible to provide health care without causing harm? The experience of King George’s Medical University (KGMU), a hospital for the poor in India, shows that it is. In 2009, the hospital generated 2.5 tonnes of infectious waste per day. Waste was dumped on the floor, collected by sweepers, Read More

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